Every August I find myself with more tomatoes than I know what to do with. I gift some to friends and family and then head to my kitchen where I use some in more traditional dishes like this Caprese salad, while others I confit for the winter months ahead when I’ll have time to ponder my garden for next year. Maybe I wont plant so many tomato plants!
When I make a Caprese Salad, I like to use a variety of tomatoes. Each has it’s own flavor, color and texture to add to the dish. The varieties from my garden this year are:
* Pink Brandywine
* Yellow German Striped
* Big Beef
* Green Zebra
* Black Krim
* San Marzano
* Sun Gold
* Green Grape
* Yellow Pear
Traditional Caprese Salads with sliced tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella and a sprinkling of fresh basil are good, but why settle for good?
Some of my favorite variations are:
* Roast some of the small tomatoes at 400-degrees F. for 15 minutes with olive oil, S&P
* Make a fresh basil paste (or pesto) and spoon it on the plate
* Make a basil infused olive oil to drizzle on the plate
* Use my recipe for a “Smoked Tomato Confit” to spoon onto the plate for a creamy-smoky explosion of tomato flavor
* Layer the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella in a timbale mold to create a beautiful “stacked Caprese”
Caprese Salads are simple to make, but the ingredients need to be top notch to elevate it to an experience.
My Caprese Rules:
* Really ripe tomatoes, preferably heirloom, various sizes and colors
* Fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably “Buffalo” milk, but cow’s milk will do. Try to buy ovoline (egg-sized) balls that are packed in whey. The dry and often rubbery “vacuum sealed” balls are usually disappointing
* This is the opportunity to use that expensive bottle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar you brought home from your last trip to Italy
* Use fresh sweet basil – in addition to sweet green basil, I grow “Dark Opal” and “Purple Ruffled” varieties to add some additional color interest. Another basil to check out is “Lettuce Leaf” basil, for it’s large tender leaves
* Sea salt – again, this is the time to break out that expensive (it’s all relative) sea salt. Coarse sea salt (not too coarse) will add some nice texture to the salad. I use Maldon sea salt but Pink Himalayan, Black Lava (Hiwa Kai) or Fleur de Sel are also good choices
Tomato corers are a great inexpensive tool to have around the kitchen. They make the removal of the core fast and efficient. I am not big on kitchen gadgets, but this small tool is one of my “must haves”. They also work well for hulling strawberries, removing eyes from potatoes and coring halved apples or pears.
Caprese SaladCourse: SaladsCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
Several ripe tomatoes of choice - select various sizes and colors
4 balls fresh mozzarella (“Ovoline”, or egg-size)
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (this is the time to use the good stuff)
4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (again, use the good stuff here or a balsamic glaze)
1/2 bunch of fresh sweet basil (red and green if possible)
Sea salt to taste (I use Maldon Sea Salt)
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Edible flowers, optional
- I like to remove the skin from the large tomatoes, but this is not always necessary. Get creative and cut your large tomatoes into various slices (some thin, some thick) and wedges. Leave small tomatoes whole or simply cut them in half.
- Display the tomatoes on a plate or platter (for family style) and add the mozzarella. Personally, I like to leave the mozzarella ball whole. Once it is sliced, the liquid weeps all over the plate.
- Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Decorate with basil leaves and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with optional edible flowers and serve.