I must be getting old.
I seem to be having more and more of those “Remember when….” conversations lately.
For example, let’s examine this lovely Caprese Salad or Insalata Caprese in Italian:
Remember when the only Mozzarella you could buy at the store was weirdly plastic-like shredded stuff?
Don’t even get me started on those green cans of Parmesan cheese dust.
Remember when NO ONE had fresh herbs? None. No basil. No dill. They weren’t in our gardens and they sure weren’t in our stores.
Vinegar? Cider, Red & White if you were lucky. Balsamic? No way.
Olive oil? Now you have 20 varieties from which to choose.
Maybe I’m not getting old, I’m just getting better food.
Yes. Let’s go with that!
Caprese Salad is easy to make now that you can conveniently buy or grow the main ingredients.
Here’s what you need:
Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Fresh Basil, Olive Oil, Vinegar (Balsamic or Red Wine), Salt & Pepper.
Fresh Mozzarella comes in several varieties these days. My store sells one variety in tight little plastic packages but I find that cheese a bit on the rubbery side. I prefer the Mozzarella balls that come in a container of water.
My store sells the large balls – about the size of a tennis ball, as well as gumball sized ones. For slicing, the big ones are obviously easier to handle. However, sometime for fun, make your Caprese with cherry tomatoes, shredded basil and the small little Mozzarella balls and toss it all together in a bowl.
If you live near a fancy schmancy store like Whole Foods or Fresh Market or a good cheese shop/deli (Murray’s in New York…sigh), you will also have options like Buffalo Mozzarella made from the milk of the water buffalo. Good old cow milk Mozzarella works just fine too.
Grab some nice red, ripe tomatoes and slice them into fairly thick rounds.
Put the tomatoes on a big plate or platter and season them with salt and pepper.
Slice the Mozzarella slightly thinner than the tomatoes and place a slice of cheese on top of each tomato.
Pluck a nice, fat, fresh Basil leaf and put it on top of the cheese.
Do I need to convince you to wash your produce? Does it bug anyone besides me to watch the TV food shows and they just dump the produce in (Ina!) without even a rinse?
Well, get a load of this guy.
I’m sure he’s a delicacy in some country but Caprese a la Caterpillar is not on the menu at my house.
(He was humanely released out into the garden. No worms or caterpillars were harmed in the making of this salad.)
Next grab some good olive oil and drizzle a bit over the top of the salad. Go easy on the oil at first — you can always add more.
Add some vinegar – Balsamic or Red Wine will both work – and carefully drizzle a bit of vinegar on top of the salad. You want about 1/2 as much vinegar as oil.
You can see my giant looking thumb in this photo. I’m holding my thumb over the opening of the vinegar bottle so that I can control the amount that pours out. It’s much easier to dribble a little on at a time than to try to deal with a lake of vinegar on your platter.
And there you have a Caprese Salad! Red, white and green – the colors of the Italian flag.
If you can, make this salad first and let it hang out at room temperature (PLEASE don’t put it in the refrigerator) to allow the oil and vinegar to mingle with the tomatoes.
Good stuff. Those Italians knew what they were doing when they invented this one.
Here’s the recipe: