I love dishes that allow you to say something like “serve with plenty of crusty bread to make a meal of it”. Especially when “making a meal of it” involves not cooking and/or a twee trip to the farmer’s market to pick out picture-perfect produce. That’s what caprese salad is: a meal that hinges on simplicity while also requiring attention to detail (but in a super Instagrammable kind of way). It also happens to be the ultimate cold summer dinner. It’s practically a crime to not make a meal like this at least once during the heat wave that is Smaugust 2017. Equally criminal would be not polishing off an ice-cold bottle of rose alongside it.
Although you don’t technically NEED a recipe for caprese salad, I actually think this recipe really nails down some of the key components that you want in something so simple. Take, for example, the two kinds of tomatoes (cherry and heirloom). Not only do they add visual flair, but the texture achieved from the small *pop* of the cherries and the soft crush of the heirlooms is actually great. It’s easy for caprese to become a bit too uniform in texture – everything all soft and melding together – so the contrast of the two different tomatoes provides a nice wake-up for your mouth.
Also, there seems to be some confusion over the term ‘fresh mozzarella’. I don’t mean ‘fresh’ as in “not rotten” (that should be apparent, but you’d be surprised at the idiocy that exists in this world). I mean ‘fresh’ as in “the kind that comes in a fat ball floating in slightly rank-looking water”. If you can grate the mozzarella, you have bought the wrong mozzarella. If it says “pizza mozzarella”, you have bought the wrong mozzarella. If it’s vacuum-sealed, you have bought the wrong mozzarella. Just don’t buy the wrong mozzarella, okay?
BA’s Best: Caprese Salad
Taken directly from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there
Serves 4 (maybe 2 if you made it the main bulk of your meal, but it’s still a pretty huge salad)
¾ lb (1 pint) lovely cherry tomatoes, preferably assorted colours
NICE extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling (at least ¼ cup or so)
2 lb gorgeous summer tomatoes (such as heirlooms), preferably assorted colours and sizes
1 large ball buffalo mozzarella, at room temperature
1 small bunch basil, leaves plucked and stems discarded
Plenty of lovely flaky sea salt (e.g. Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper, for serving
Halve the cherry tomatoes and toss them with a spoonful of the good olive oil. Season lightly with flaky salt. Set aside.
Cut the big tomatoes into slices or wedges (I cut smaller ones into quartered wedges and bigger ones into slices for lots of fun, tomato-y textures). Arrange the tomatoes on your loveliest plate or platter, with slices/wedges slightly overlapping. Season the tomatoes with flaky salt. Tear or cut the mozzarella into pieces and arrange over the tomatoes. Season the cheese lightly with flaky salt. Spoon the marinated cherry tomatoes over the salad and drizzle with more olive oil. Grind PLENTY of black pepper over your masterpiece. Let the salad sit for 10 minutes (just to let the flavours mingle and get comfortable with one another) before tucking dainty basil leaves amongst the cheesy, tomato-y goodness. Serve with crusty bread and enough wine to make you forget that tomorrow will be equally as hot as today was.