I love this salad, appetizer, lunch…thingy. Caprese salad is a simple combination of fairly basic ingredients, but it makes my mouth so happy. The flavor combination is amazing. If you wait until you can get some home-grown tomatoes it will be SUPER amazing. Almost nothing can beat the taste of a home-grown tomato.
I came across this salad a few years back and have been making it regularly ever since. It turns out I am not the only fan. Almost every time I have made this, at least one person in the crowd nearly swoons because he or she “Loves Caprese Salad” and is so excited to see it being offered that day. People appreciate having at least one relatively healthy option at a party. It is gluten-free, egg-free, sugar-free, meat-free, lead paint-free…
Caprese salad makes a great, fancy-looking appetizer for a party. I served it this weekend for a brunch I was catering. It can also be served as a side salad or, as I often do, a main course. There are several different options for how to make this–from bite size all the way up to a complete full-size salad.
If you haven’t tasted this before, get ready to fall in love.
- tomatoes–you can use small grape or cherry tomatoes for mini bites, Roma tomatoes, or whatever other variety you like, depending on how you wish to serve it.
- fresh basil leaves
- fresh mozzarella–you can use pearl size balls, mini slices, or large slices–again depending on how you wish to serve it. Fresh mozzarella is usually found in a refrigerated case near the deli at the grocery store. Regular mozzarella cheese will not be the same.
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- salt (I always use kosher)
- pepper (I usually use fresh from my pepper grinder)
- minced garlic (optional)
- Prepare your tomatoes. If you are using grape or cherry tomatoes, you just need to wash them. If you are using a larger tomato, you will need to slice it into thick-ish slices (1/4 inch or so).
- Tear or cut the basil leaves into pieces that are appropriate for the size of your tomatoes. Layer one piece of basil on each slice of tomato.
- Layer a mozzarella pearl or slice on top of the basil layer from step two. If you are using grape tomatoes and pearl mozzarella, you may want to secure the layers together with a toothpick.
- Lightly drizzle olive oil over the layered tomato, basil, and mozzarella. I haven’t given an amount because you can customize this for a single serving all the way up to a large crowd. Keep the oil and balsamic vinegar in the proportion of about 1 to 2. If you use a teaspoon of oil, then use two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar.
- Lightly drizzle balsamic vinegar over the salad. Use approximately double the amount as you used for the oil in the previous step.
- Sprinkle a small amount of kosher salt and fresh pepper over the salads. Sprinkle a little minced garlic if you like.
- Serve immediately for best results. You can refrigerate leftovers for a day or so, but they will not taste as good as fresh. You can serve this as an appetizer held together with toothpicks or as a layered bite size salad. You can also put it together on a platter with larger slices of tomato and mozzarella alternating (like the picture on the front of the mozzarella package if you can see it in my ingredient picture). I have served this as a “tossed” salad in a bowl before, but it wasn’t as good as the layered salad. There is something wonderful about a bite that has an equal amount of tomato, basil, and mozzarella. That portioning becomes more random in a tossed salad.
Note: One problem with this salad is that the balsamic and olive oil don’t stay on the salad very well. You have to “sop up” the dressing from the bottom of your plate or bowl to get the full yumminess effect. I have recently heard about making a balsamic reduction which thickens the vinegar into more of a syrup-like consistency, so it will stay put on the salad, but I have not tried it yet. The reduction basically requires cooking the vinegar for a period of time to evaporate some of the liquid. It usually includes adding sugar or another sweetener to cut some of the bite of the vinegar. If you are interested in this, just do a search for balsamic reduction. I plan to try it soon.