If it is summer in your part of the world, fresh vine ripened tomatoes are part of your reality. And there is nothing I like better for a summer salad than a fresh Caprese salad.
This is amazingly simply to prepare and delicious beyond description. Just think…fresh tomatoes bursting with sun-ripened flavour…fragrant fresh basil…smooth, flavourful Italian cheeses…the piquant bite of balsamic vinegar…is your mouth watering yet?
The interesting thing about this salad is that it also makes a great sandwich! See the variations at the end for details!
2 large or 4 small fresh ripe tomatoes, chilled
1 sweet onion, (Vidalia or Maui are best) cut in paper thin slices (optional)
1 cup of fresh basil leaves, uncut
8 slices white Italian cheese (fresh, soft mozzarella is divine, but Provolone is great!)
½ cup balsamic glaze or the dressing below
Salt to taste
Select the four largest basil leaves and make a chiffonade*. Set aside for the garnish.
Wash tomatoes and slice into generous slices. Select the best 8 slices for the salad.
Slice the cheese into 8 slices. If using fresh mozzarella, make the slices thickish.
Bruise the basil.
There are two ways to assemble the salad.
Cut all ingredients into quarters, then place in a salad bowl and toss with dressing (below).
Place a piece of cheese on a plate and slice of tomato on top of it; salt the tomato to taste. Push the centre section out of an onion slice and place on top of the tomato slice. Put a few bruised basil leaves on top and drizzle with balsamic glaze or dressing. Garnish with a bit of the chiffonade. These little stacks can be arranged individually on a plate or arranged to overlap each other (like crackers on a cheese plate). If overlapping into a row or ring, add glaze or dressing at the end, then garnish.
* chiffonade: select four or more large basil leaves and stack one on top of the other. Starting at the pointed end, roll the stack of leaves toward the stem end, like a cigar. Using a sharp knife, diagonally slice the tube into thin ribbons.
In a bowl whisk together ½ cup olive oil, ¼ cup balsamic or wine vinegar, ½ tsp dried Italian seasoning. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or longer, then whisk again and immediately pour over the salad.
1 panini roll or small baguette, split lengthwise, or slices of sour dough bread.
1 large tomato, sliced
2 slices white Italian cheese (recommend Provolone)
1 paper-thin slice of sweet onion (optional)
6 large fresh basil leaves, bruised
1 tbsp balsamic glaze (or vinegar)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Whisk oil and balsamic glaze together. Brush half of it on the cut side of the bottom piece or bread.
Put cheese on bread, followed by onion, and tomato slices. Salt to taste, then brush on remaining oil mixture. Top with basil leaves and top slice of bread.
Photos by cyancey and aokettun, Flickr