I’ve never been a huge fan of salads. There was just something about eating an entire plate of uncooked greens that came off as unappetizing to me. Furthermore, cheese has never been my thing unless it’s melted on a pizza or bubbling in some macaroni and cheese. I suppose it’s some strange aversion I have to eating raw things that aren’t meat as I love sushi and medium steaks. I’ve also never been a fan of olive oil, using it mainly to cook rather than eating straight out of the bottle. So there seems to be little hope in me enjoying any aspect of a caprese salad.
But then this past summer I had one for the first time and while it was just okay that first time, I found myself craving it again and again several months later. I don’t know what it was that just clicked for my taste buds but now caprese salads are one of the things I look forward to eating. I think it probably has something to do with the simplicity of the entire dish. The simple preparation, the simple ingredients, the simple flavors all contribute to a clean and fresh taste that’s just complex enough to keep your taste buds wanting more.
The caprese salad is a wonderfully simple dish, focusing more on the quality of ingredients than on the length of preparation. The silky texture of the mozzarella and the tangy sweetness of the vine-ripe tomatoes are complemented nicely by the olive oil and basil. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper and the flavors melded are compounded into a bite that’s bursting of summer days and cool, sunny breezes.
Insalata Caprese Salad
1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
A bunch of Basil leaves (about 15 or so leaves)
Extra-virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
Salt & pepper, to taste
1. Slice ball of fresh mozzarella into wheels, about 1/4-inch thick.
2. Slice tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices.
3. Finely chop or julienne basil leaves.
4. Layer alternating slices of the mozzarella and tomato, sprinkle with chopped basil leaves and drizzle liberally with extra-virgin olive oil.
5. Season with salt & pepper, serve slightly chilled.
I know chilling the tomatoes may slightly reduce its taste but I enjoy this salad slightly chilled as I feel it cuts back on the oiliness of the dish. You can also place the mozzarella wheels on top of the tomato slices and then on top of that a whole basil leaf, but I feel like layering alternate slices of the cheese and tomato distributes the olive oil better (and thus the flavor) and chopping the basil leaf releases more of its fragrance into the salad.
If tomatoes are not in season, I’ve read that roasting the tomato slices in the oven will liven up the flavors again, even though it may mean changing the dish a little bit. Using several different types of tomatoes also gives the dish another depth of subtle flavors. You can also do cherry tomatoes with little balls of mozzarella, too. Serve along side some bread, like focaccia, for mopping up the extra olive oil is an excellent way to use up those extra drizzles of olive oil that didn’t make it onto your fork!
A very simple and delicious salad, hard to mess up no matter what you do!