Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Best summer salad ever - insalata caprese

Photograph © 2013 Lori Korleski Richardson
One salad defines summer, and that's the Italian insalata caprese (salad in the style of Capri).

Simply, it's a ball of buffalo mozzarella, sliced thinly; fresh, very ripe tomatoes, also sliced thinly; fresh basil leaves, cut horizontally into tiny ribbons; salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste.

Some notes and variations that I have tried this summer and enjoyed:

  • Many cooks don't have the technique needed to thinly slice a whole ripe tomato, especially a large heirloom, and don't even think of slicing a tomato without sharpening your knife first. To make it easier on yourself, core the top stem area, cut the tomato in half, put the cut sides down, then slice. This makes cutting up the mozzarella easier, too.
  • Replace the salt with finely ground sel gris or other gray sea salt, or smoked salt crystals.
  • Buffalo mozzarella too dear? Skip the commercial varieties (too bland and bad texture) and try some goat cheese, provolone, or even a triple cream that's somewhat on the firm side (Cowgirl Creamery on the West Coast and Caromont on the East have good ones). 
  • A mixture of colored tomatoes are great for a party platter.
  • Don't like vinegar? Don't want the extra calories of olive oil? Allergic to pepper? Can't tolerate salt? Fine. As long as the tomato is fresh and ripe, it can stand on its own.

As my husband can tell you, I'm rather harsh in my judgment of tomatoes, grilling waitstaff on whether the tomatoes in the salad are ripe (I do this only in season; out of season, I don't bother ordering salads with tomatoes in them) and sending the salad back if they aren't. I know why a restaurant may have food-service tomatoes even in August and September, but I don't have to pay for their lack of awareness or bad business practices.

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite salad, hands down!
    And thank you for teaching me how to properly cut a tomato!
    Happy Summer!