With summer vegetables coming in, not to mention the temperature going up, its time to turn our thoughts to cool salads that can act as replacements for the lettuce and cucumber affairs of spring. With summer tomatoes starting to come in, you could try a Caprese salad. This simple, almost minimalist, salad really lets the fresh tomato and mozzarella flavors shine through.
For the best flavor, use fresh garden tomatoes, instead of those waxy flavorless ones you normally find in the supermarket. Fresh mozzarella is a must for this dish. You'll be sorely disappointed if you use the older processed crap we normally find in the cheese aisle. If you can't get fresh mozzarella, try this recipe with chevré (soft French goat cheese), instead.
5 small ripe tomatoes
9 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
6 basil leaves (fresh)
for the dressing
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste
salt, to taste
Remove the stems from each tomato, halve them lengthwise, and cut them into wedges about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the mozzarella into slices around 1/4 inch thick, as well, about the same size and thickness as the tomato slices.
Arrange alternate slices of tomato and mozzarella on a serving dish. Sprinkle small pieces of basil over the salad, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, to chill.
If you don't have fresh basil, that's okay. You can sprinkle it with a bit of dried basil, instead.
While the salad is chilling, combine the balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time, mixing in one thoroughly before adding the next, to make an emulsion.
When ready to serve, take the salad from the refrigerator and remove the plastic warp. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and sprinkle with ground black pepper to taste. Additional salt can also be added, if desired.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.