Monday, August 8, 2011

If You Can't Go To Capri Make Caprese Salad

The tomatoes are here! The tomatoes are here!  Yes, it's early August and tomatoes are more than plentiful.  There are so many of them right now it's hard to think of things to make with all of them.  Okay, you have put them on sandwiches and in salads, and stuffed them and baked them and made tomato pie and enjoyed them sliced with a little salt and pepper.  My grandmother ate hers with a little sugar on them.  Then, there is canning and freezing them and there are still mountains of tomatoes.  What to do, what to do?  You surely don't want to waste any of that heavenly summertime goodness.

One of my favorite salads to make is a Caprese salad. (Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri) is a simple salad from the Italian region of Campania - Wikipedia) What is a Caprese (cuhPRAYzay) salad you ask?  It is one of the easiest and tastiest salads you can make, especially with heirloom tomatoes which are plentiful and inexpensive right now.  You can also use your favorite red tomatoes like beefsteak or better boy if you prefer.

"Heirloom Tomatoes have flavors, colors and textures that are quite different than regular store bought tomatoes. These are the varieties that our grandparents and great grandparents grew many years ago that are full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and cancer preventing agents. The colors normally determine the amount of acidity, darker colors are more acidic and lighter colors are less acidic."

For the salad in the picture, I used a Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato, a Pineapple heirloom and a Green Zebra heirloom.  They are not the red tomatoes we have all become accustomed to, but are what tomatoes originally were before hybrid varieties became popular.  The Cherokee Purple is probably my favorite tomato.  It is a heavy, meaty tomato that is sweet and juicy - absolutely delicious and is so dark that it is almost purple.    The Green Zebra is a smaller tomato that is a little bit tart, but so amazing that I cannot say enough good things about it.  The Pineapple is also delicious - big, yellow,  meaty,  and super sweet like the Cherokee Purple.  We have these tomatoes growing in our garden, but they can also be purchased at local farmer's markets.

To make the Caprese salad, you will need whole fresh tomatoes, a package of fresh mozzarella cheese (I get mine at Aldi's because it's inexpensive and good), fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.   Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella, putting a piece of fresh mozzarella cheese between each tomato slice.  I used 3 tomatoes and 1 package of fresh mozzarella to make the salad in the picture.  You can stack the tomatoes and mozzarella like a sandwich using 2 tomato slices with a slice of mozzarella wedged between them and a piece on top, or layer them around a serving platter like the picture above.   Take a handful of fresh basil leaves and tear them into pieces.  Sprinkle the basil over all the tomatoes then salt and pepper.  (You can leave the basil leaves whole if you prefer, just make sure each tomato slice has a basil leaf.)   Drizzle some good extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes and you have one of the best and easiest salads you will ever make or consume!  I also like a little balsamic vinegar drizzled over mine, but I do that on my plate since Dan is not a fan.

This is a salad you can eat for your main course or you can serve it as a side dish.  My understanding is Caprese salad is traditionally eaten before a meal like an anti-pasti.  It is beautiful to look at and even better to eat!  The sweet, heavenly smell of the basil and olive oil combined with the juicy tomatoes and soft, mild mozzarella is one of the finest summertime treats I can think of.  Nature blesses us with amazing things to enjoy and this is certainly among the best.  Oh summer, how you delight us with your wondrous bounty.    Give yourself and your family a real summertime treat.  Make them a wonderful Caprese salad.  Simple, easy, made with love.  There is nothing better.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato." - Lewis Grizzard

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