One of my summer favorites! Five simple ingredients make the perfect insalata caprese: ripe tomato, fresh basil, high quality extra virgin olive oil, mozarella di bufala (with more flavor and higher fat than fiordilatte, its ubiquitous cows’ milk cousin) and sea salt. Basta cosi!
Tonight I made one with grape tomatoes and bocconcini (small fiordilatte mozzarella balls) … and ate it before thinking to take a picture! I left out the garlic (not a huge fan) but had I included it, the cloves would have been first cut in half and then infused in the olive oil. Chewing chunks of garlic in this salad is a giant turnoff, as is tasting any vinegar in it. Only at Chloe, one of my favorite Philly BYOBs, have I ever even agreed to taste a caprese with vinegar on it. Why would anyone want to destroy the subtlety of the cheese with an acid? A good tomato is both sweet and slightly acidic. If you’re seeking a tang, ditch the vinegar and try using a less buttery olive oil (like an acidic – i.e. bitter – one from Greece or Spain).
In the good old days of life in ‘da ‘Burgh, I could easily procure all five ingredients, but in the 5th largest city of the country, finding a high quality cheese is a total drag. Claudio’s in the Italian market makes a decent fresh mozzarella (a fiordilatte, with cow’s milk), but getting there from University City takes a degree of planning and effort I’m uninspired to exert. The despicable DiBruno Bros., who have a shop in nearby Center City, connive to sell overpriced and overripe buffalo mozzarella with a load of bull on the side. I obviously avoid them at all costs. Thus, I settle with an inferior fiordilatte procured from my downtown Trader Joe’s.
Recipe (amounts to your desire)
infuse garlic in olive oil (cut clove in half, heat on low flame until it starts to brown, then remove and discard the clove and cool).
cut grape tomatoes in half and put in a bowl
thinly slice basil leaves and add to tomatoes
cut bocconcini (small mozzarealla balls) in half and add to the tomato-basil
add salt to taste
add garlic-infused oil to taste
Eccoci! You’re good to go. When you think you get sick of this dish, use a different salt, a different variety of basil, a different oil, a different cheese. Enjoy the slight changes. Cut the tomatoes and cheese up into smaller pieces, add more basil and oil and then serve it over fresh cooked pasta. Tell me how it goes!
For more flavors of Capri, check out http://www.capriflavors.com/recipe_insalata_main.php , where I grabbed the pic.