July 12, 2012

Insalata Caprese - The Best Salad Ever!

My all-time favorite salad is the caprese. Maybe it's because I'm Italian. Maybe it's because it is so simple to make. No matter what the reason, this salad is unbelievably delicious.

Traditionally, caprese salads are made using thick slices of tomato, sliced rounds of fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top.

Picture of insalata caprese (caprese salad) from wikipedia
Insalata Caprese - from Wikipedia

The way I make my caprese is a little different. It all started when my husband (then fiance) was in law school and I was the only one working (at a craptastic job). I never let myself buy fresh mozzarella, but I really wanted to make a caprese salad. I had some cherry tomatoes, some fresh basil, and . . . string cheese! Yup. String cheese. I sliced those cheese sticks into rounds, cut the tomatoes in half, and chopped up the basil. I topped it all with a few drizzles of olive oil and balsamic and gave everything a quick toss. I was a happy camper. The texture of the cheese wasn't right, but the flavor was good. I'd like to say that this was a one time deal, but I have to confess that I think I made it this way until we got real jobs and I let myself buy the right ingredients.

I have been buying real, fresh mozzarella to make my caprese salads for a few years now, but I still use cherry tomatoes and make it like a tossed salad.

Pictue of the ingredients for a caprese salad - tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil

Insalata Caprese

10 oz cherry or grape tomatoes
8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (measure after chopping)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Cut the tomatoes in half (lengthwise for grape tomatoes).

Caprese salad - tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegarIf you are using bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls), you can leave them whole or cut them in half or quarters. If you are using larger balls of fresh mozzarella, cut the ball down into pieces that are close to the same size as your tomatoes after slicing.

Tear, slice, or chop the basil.

Combine the chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil in a bowl. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything well.

You can eat the caprese right away, but it tastes better if you let it sit for a bit and let the flavors marry.

A Quick Tip For Chopping Basil

Step by step picture tutorial for how to make a basil chiffonade and how to chop basil
1: Remove the basil leaves from the stalks.

2: Stack the leaves, largest on the bottom. Work your way up to the smallest leaves. This step does not have to be neat and tidy. Just make sure you have the largest leaf on the bottom.

3: Roll the leaves up. Make sure the smaller leaves are covered as much as possible.

4: Start at one end of the basil roll. Make thin slices down the length of the roll.

5: You now have a bunch of basil ribbons, or a "chiffonade." Basil ribbons are beautiful, so you can stop here if you like.

6: To finish the chop, slice across the rolls of basil.


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