Caprese Salads, Bruschetta, and Other Tomato Variations

Tonight I enjoyed one of my favorite dishes: a Caprese salad. Possibly the simplest of salads… While it’s (clearly) delicious, I enjoy it most because the smells of each ingredient take me right back to days spent with various family members growing up. I remember the first time I ate a fresh basil leaf was on my Aunt Susan’s porch at a casual summer evening cookout. Homegrown New Jersey tomatoes alternate sending me between my grandparents’ kitchen or my back yard… My Grandma Fannie introduced me to the yummy-ness of a tomato sandwich, while my Dad used to have me hold the basket while he picked tomatoes from our tiny garden under the kitchen window. These memories and the ability to be immediately transported somewhere comforting are definite contributors to my love of cooking.

So, while it might be obvious to some, tonight I give you my two favorite recipes for a kick ass Caprese salad:

Option 1:
Slice three medium sized ripe tomatoes horizontally, removing the green stem with a paring knife. Slice one ball of fresh, salted mozarella in 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices. Arrange your slices in a circle around a plate, alternating tomato slice, mozarella slice, and fresh basil leaf. Drizzle with an aged balsamic vinegar to taste.

Option 2:
Slice one pint of baby heirloom tomatoes (preferably of assorted colors – I like the mixed packages that offer dark green, yellow, veiny red, and orange ones,) into quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the tomato. If the tomatoes are small enough, you shouldn’t need to worry about the section where the stem grew. Toss in a bowl with one cup of pearl sized bocconcini (or mini mozzarella balls). Mince one clove of garlic. Rough chop 10 -12 leaves of fresh basil, add to the bowl with the minced garlic, and toss with balsamic vinegar to taste.

Side note: Option 2 also makes an EXCELLENT dressing for angel hair or spaghetti in summer, but I recommend dicing the tomatoes in this instance. DELICIOUS, especially when the bocconcini melts just a little over the warm pasta. You could also add some roasted red peppers and serve over olive oil brushed crustini as a bruschetta. Enjoy!!!

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