Late summer… ahh! The days are getting slightly shorter, the nights are cooling down, and tomatoes are in season!
There is nothing– absolutely nothing– as delicious as a tomato right off the plant. When you pop a ripe red cherry tomato in your mouth, the first bite yields a burst of fresh, sweet juice. Plus, it’s sun-warmed, which somehow adds to the flavour. It’s like nothing else in the world!
In Italy last summer (and even before that), my husband and I fell in love with Caprese Salad. It’s so simple, but made with fresh ingredients– there is nothing else like it. There are three major requirements for Caprese Salad. 1) Fresh tomatoes in season. Please, please, please make this with farm fresh tomatoes, or better yet, those from your garden. It makes all of the difference. I found a little Veggie Shack on the side of the road selling heirloom tomatoes. They’re delightfully coloured (purple, red and green striped, yellow). I used them for my salad. 2) Fresh mozzarella cheese, called bocconcini. You buy it in tubs in the specialty cheese section (usually by the deli). The cheese is packed in water. You can buy it in bigger balls, which you slice (like I did for this salad), or you can buy smaller balls, and serve them with cherry tomatoes. A sliced salad is traditional, but cherry tomatoes and small balls of cheese is just as delicious. 3) Fresh basil. It’s a must. There is no flavour like fresh tomato and fresh basil.
This salad makes a stunning presentation when it’s plated on individual plates. You can drizzle it with your best olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or you can leave it plain. I have made a vinaigrette before (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper), and tossed a cherry tomato and mini bocconcini salad with it, which is also delicious.
While on vacation last week in the Kooteneys of BC (an amazingly beautiful, rustic, uncrowded part of our province), we had a Caprese Salad. They had salted each tomato slice before layering it with the cheese. I highly recommend this. It seems to really draw out the flavour of the tomato.
tomatoes (approximately 1 per person)
bocconcini (approximately 1 ball per person, if about the size of an egg)
coarse salt, pepper
olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to drizzle (optional)
Slice your tomatoes about 1/4″ thick. Slice bocconcini about the same thickness.
To plate the salad, put down a slice of tomato, lightly salt it (coarse salt is best), put down a slice of mozzarelle, and a leaf of fresh basil. Continue until you have used up your ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, if desired.
So simple. So delicious. Summer on a plate.
The Hungry Teacher