I now do not recall my first introduction to Insalata Caprese but it was love at first bite for me. A simple, fresh salad of Italian origin made only of tomatoes (usually slices), freshly made mozzarella cheese (which if you have not had, do not confuse it with processed mozzarella; totally different animal), fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. If ordering it at a restaurant anywhere in the world you’d expect a plate of several individually architected ‘bites’ (really larger than one bite) of a tomato slice, a thick slice of mozzarella matching the tomato slice in size, a basil leaf and drizzle of olive oil that slinks underneath the tomato providing a kiss of oil to both sides of the salad.
To me this is really the only time of year to make this salad. To enjoy it in its highest and most flavorful form, it requires the vine ripened tomatoes and fresh garden basil. Its simplicity is certainly part of the salad’s charm, as well as being able to be whipped up in less than 10 minutes.
Our tots all file back to school this week into promised sweltering classrooms which we’ve received lists of suggestions about how to manage. It signals the time of year when simple, quick, flavorful dishes are a must and often challenging to the lunch-preparing parent. I have a version of Insalata Caprese that lessens the preparation a bit and is perfect for any meal, adult or child. Using a variety of the currently ripe cherry tomatoes and mini mozzarella balls this salad becomes a mini version easy to consume with no cutting as well.
BITE-SIZE INSALATE CAPRESE
In the traditional Caprese salad (the bigger version) red tomatoes are used exclusively. There are so many varieties of cherry tomatoes it would be a shame to discriminate and lose the beautiful color and flavor in this version. I used a mix from a local farm that contained red cherry tomatoes, yellow pear, orange and a purple/black variety. Fresh garden basil makes this a full celebration of summer for me. I hope you’ll agree!
Yield: 3 cups approximately
· 1 pint of cherry tomatoes (preferably mixed varieties), rinsed and de-stemmed
· 1-8 ounce container of fresh Ciliegine mozzarella in water (cherry sized), drained*
· 6 large basil leaves, hand torn into small pieces
· Olive oil to drizzle (1-2 tablespoons)
· Salt and pepper to taste
*Unless you have a fresh source for the mozzarella you can find it in the cheese or dairy section in your grocery store in a plastic tub filled with water. If you are unable to find the cherry size, you can always substitute regular fresh mozzarella and cut it into bite sized pieces to match the volume of the tomatoes.
1. In a large bowl place tomatoes, mozzarella balls, basil. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss the salad to fully coat. Serve at room temperature to enjoy the fullest flavor.