Summer is the season for Caprese Salad, a dish that hails from the Italian island of Capri. In its purest form, it’s made from ripe tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and fruity olive oil—nothing more, nothing less. We have taken a liberty by adding a bit of balsamic vinegar to compensate for less than perfect tomatoes and help the salad sing. Here are some tips on making the it perfect:
• Don’t dare make a Caprese Salad without the juiciest, ripest summer tomatoes you can find.
• Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is the traditional cheese of Caprese Salad. It is made from the milk of Italy’s water buffalo. As it is difficult to find stateside, we usually use fresh mozzarella made from cow’s milk. You can find it in the deli section of the supermarket.
• Basil should be super fresh. Trim the stems and place in a glass or jar of water. To keep the leaves from turning black, store at room temperature.
• A fruity olive oil is a must. Cold-pressed and minimally processed, these oils retain more of the individual characteristics of the olive. They’re more expensive than regular olive oils and are perfect in any application that doesn’t require heat—drizzling on pasta and making vinaigrettes.
Classic Caprese Salad
Use pieces of toasted, crusty bread to mop up the rich mix of tomato juices, fruity olive oil and aromatic vinegar
3 large ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 (4-ounce) fresh mozzarella balls (buffalo milk is best if available)
Fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1. Slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
2. Drain mozzarella from package brine solution and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. (To make slicing easy, dip your knife into hot water to warm the blade between cuts.)
3. Arrange alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella and basil leaves on four plates. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper and a scattering of torn basil leaves. Set aside 5 minutes to allow flavors to intensify. Serves 4.
Per serving: 170 calories, 7g fat, 10mg chol., 19g prot., 5g carbs., 2g fiber, 630mg sodium
Change It Up
Caprese Salad lends itself to endless variations. Here are our favorites.
Caprese Salad with Roasted Beets. Preheat oven to 375F. Wrap 3 beets individually in aluminum foil and place in the oven. Roast 1 hour or until tender. Let cool. Rub off skins. Slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Follow directions in Classic Caprese Salad adding a layer of beets to the tomatoes, cheese and basil.
Caprese with Roasted Red Bell Peppers. Heat boiler. Cut 2 red bell peppers into halves. Flatten with hand. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until charred on top. Gather up foil and wrap peppers. Let cool. Peel. Follow directions in Classic Caprese Salad adding a layer of peppers to tomatoes, cheese and basil.
Caprese Pasta Salad. Chop leftover Caprese Salad or cut into smaller pieces. Toss with cooked penne pasta or other short pasta.
Photo Credit: Mark Boughton Photography / styling: Teresa Blackburn