Thursday, October 13, 2011

Caprese Salad - Cathy

 
 
If there is one thing that Utah does really, really well, it is TOMATOES! This summer, for the first time in quite a few years Farmer Kevin has managed to defend our large organic garden from our beautiful but not always welcome visitors, the deer.  

It has been such a pleasure to once again have bowls and counter-tops brimming over with riotously colored and shaped, perfectly ripe tomatoes (not to mention zucchini, cucumbers, cantaloupe, peppers, lettuce and spinach!). 


One of the very best parts of summer is to go out to the garden in the not-too-hot part of the day, pick a few of those red, gold, and green-striped tomatoes, sprinkle them with perhaps a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, then eat them while leaning over the kitchen sink to catch all of those juicy drips.

But you can only eat so many that way (I guess).  Here is one of the most beautiful, luscious and decadent ways I know of to enjoy gorgeous summer heirloom tomatoes, yet still simple enough to highlight this wonderful but fleeting harvest. When you make this salad, you feel like you are creating a work of art, and then you have the fun of devouring it!





what you will need:

Some gorgeous, perfectly ripe tomatoes, the more varied the better (and never, ever refrigerated!)
Fresh mozzarella--this is the time to break out the good stuff: buffalo mozzarella packed in water
Salt (Kosher, sea salt, whatever strikes you.  I like to use large crystals of black sea salt just because I like the way it looks on the white cheese)
Freshly ground pepper
Some fresh basil
Your favorite best quality extra virgin olive oil to drizzle



Gently pat dry the mozzarella and let it hang out a bit on a plate or your cutting board to take the chill off while you prep the tomatoes.  Slice the tomatoes into about 1/3-inch slices, and lay out to your heart's content on a large platter.  Keep in mind that you will be fitting slices of cheese in between and leave a little space.  I usually forget and have to smoosh it in later...

Slice the cheese gently (easier with a serrated or a very sharp knife) into pieces that will give each tomato just a nice balance of the tender, delicate mozzarella and the ridiculously juicy tomatoes.  Fit the pieces in between the tomatoes.  

Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  Next, chiffonade (fancy French word meaning to cut into tiny ribbons) the basil.  Here's how:







Take your washed and gently patted-dry basil leaves that you have pulled off of the stems.  Stack them up on top of each other, then roll into a tight cylinder.  Using your sharpest knife, slice into thin little ribbons that you then sprinkle across the tomatoes and cheese, admiring your artistry as you go.  


You could just chop the basil finely, but chiffonading it is much prettier, and mostly because it tends to not bruise and darken the tender leaves like mincing or chopping will.  Now  you just have beautiful, delicate bright green ribbons of basil.

Next, drizzle to taste with a generous amount of your best olive oil.  I know that very often this is served here in the good old USA with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar also, but that would definitely overpower the delicate flavors of this dish.  Maybe in the winter with hothouse tomatoes and less expensive mozzarella when you are really craving a taste of summer, but even then I wouldn't. But hey, I'm not looking...if that's what you want to do you can!

I also like to sprinkle over it an assortment of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered if very large.  This summer we have lots of Sweet 100s, and Yellow Pears; and from Erin's garden we have Green Grapes, and tiny White Currants. 

Look how gorgeous!  Time to dig in!


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