Tomatoes are bursting in the gardens right now, and one of my favorite ways to enjoy them is in a Caprese Salad. Caprese (from the Isle of Capri in Italy) is the classic combination of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil — all fresh. The trio is not only a feast for the tastebuds, but also for the eyes. (Perhaps explaining why Italy’s flag resembles this delizioso combo.)
Anyway, now’s a great time of year to use all those garden-fresh tomatoes for some Caprese, and to mix things up a bit, I’m offering three variations on the classic salad: Caprese Three Ways. Buon appetito!
All variations of our Caprese Three Ways start with these basics: fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil. The tomatoes & basil can be grown in your backyard — the mozz, not so much.
1. Traditional Caprese Salad. This version is the easiest and most classic way to serve the dish.
First, slice up the tomatoes and mozzarella. (I like Plum tomatoes for this recipe – just the right size, with a good ratio of skin to insides.)
Next, layer them up.
Finally, give them a good drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (I use white balsamic, which has the same flavor but looks better than traditional balsamic – brown on the white mozz is really unappetizing.) Then sprinkle lightly with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. (Large crystals of sea salt really do make a difference.) And voila, traditional Caprese Salad.
Version one: Traditional Caprese Salad.
2. Caprese Bruschetta: All the same goodness at the classic version, but with bread.
First slice up some freshly-made crusty bread, and drizzle it with olive oil. (I use a brush to spread it evenly.)
Pop the bread in the oven and broil it for a few minutes, until it’s golden brown. (Be careful with the broiler – it can go from white to burned in a matter of seconds. Watch it carefully!)
Next, dice the tomatoes and chop the basil.
If you’re feeling fancy, you can chiffonade the basil, which is a French term for cutting the basil into long thin slices. Just roll it up, then slice.
Mix the tomatoes and basil together with a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar (again, I use white balsamic), sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Slice the mozzarella, place it on the broiled bread, then top it with the tomato mixture.
Version Two: Caprese Bruschetta.
3. Caprese Bites. This version is great for serving at gatherings where people need simple finger food.
For this version I use cherry or grape tomatoes and mini fresh mozzarella balls. You’ll also need some toothpicks.
Skewer the three items on toothpicks, drizzle with olive oil & white balsamic vinegar, and top with a dash of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Set them up on a plate (or even standing in a glass), and serve as easy finger food when you’re entertaining.
Version three: Caprese Bites.
Now’s the best time to be enjoying garden-fresh tomatoes in their natural state — raw! And there’s no tastier combo than the classic Caprese. Buon appetito!