Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Caprese Salad

        This popular classic Italian salad is almost as ubiquitous at Italian restaurants as the ever present Ceasar salad. While I do loves me some Ceasar salad, Caprese has a freshness and lightness to it that just can't be beat. This blog is all about making restaurant style recipes at home, and this is one that's super easy to recreate at home. You don't need any fancy technique or equipment, just some top notch ingredients.

     Like most of my favorite recipes, this one has a very short list of ingredients, so it's important that they are all top quality if you want your Caprese salad to really sing. Be sure to use buffalo mozzarella. Regular mozzarella (especially the cheaper varieties) can be too dense for this salad. Buffalo mozzarella has a very light, milky texture and it's flavour has a nice gentle zing that works so well in this recipe.

   When choosing the basil, freshness is obviously key. You also want to look for a variety with leaves that are tender and more lightly flavoured than regular basil, because they work best served raw in salads like this one. Fino verde basil is a good choice. It is often found potted in earth at grocery store. When it comes to the choice of olive oil, go for a dark and rich extra virgin olive oil that has some good peppery notes to it. In a recipe with this few ingredients, even your choice of salt & pepper is important. Use a crunchy fleur-de-sel sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

    As for the tomatoes, almost any variety works, so long as they are ripe and fresh. I found some nice vine-ripened tomatoes that were about the size of a ball of buffalo mozzarella. They made for a nice tight presentation, but you could just as easily use beefsteak or cherry tomatoes. Local tomatoes are just coming into season, so now is the time to take advantage of whatever is best at the market or coming from your own garden.

Prep time: 10 minutes. Serves 4.

1 lbs (454g) fresh tomatoes
8 oz (225g) buffalo mozzarella 
1 bunch fresh basil
2 oz (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
"fleur de sel" sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1. Slice the tomatoes in half and then use a paring knife to take out the green core. Cut the tomatoes into thick slices. Cut the buffalo mozzarella in half, then into slices about the same size as the tomatoes. 

2. Gently toss the tomatoes and cheese in olive oil and season with fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange the tomatoes and cheese on 4 plates and garnish with a bit of extra olive oil, salt & pepper. Garnish with sliced basil and a few smaller leaves left whole.