If you're looking for a satisfying dish with a lot of flavor but not a lot of effort, heirloom tomatoes are here for you! They're right in season at the moment, so check out your farmer's market and better-stocked grocery stores.
Heirloom tomatoes are varietals that have been passed down in a family for several generations. We're accustomed to tomatoes that are round and evenly colored. Heirlooms can be yellow, purple, red, and orange, They can be lumpy and asymmetrical - no two are identical.
They also can run more flavorful, with a nicely balanced acidity. They also tend to have more flesh and fewer seeds, which makes them perfect for a caprese salad.
The other key ingredient in a caprese salad is fresh mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is sold either in sealed packages - not unlike your classic "string cheese" mozzarella - or in tubs with salted water.
The key to fresh mozzarella is moisture - it should be soft and creamy, with a bit of mozzarella's classic elasticity but overall much more fragile. The taste is mild, and a good bite of fresh mozzarella will have a long, flavorful finish.
Traditional mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffalo, but the more economic versions are made from cow's milk.
When I make caprese salads, I like to slice the tomato and arrange it on a plate or platter, depending on the size of the tomato. Sprinkle some salt over the top - this will help bring the flavors of the tomato forward.
Place slices of the fresh mozzarella over the tomatoes - feel free to be generous. Sprinkle a little more salt and freshly ground pepper over the top.
Take some fresh basil leaves (don't even think about using dried) and roll them up lengthwise before slicing them thin. Sprinkle (there's a lot of sprinkling in this recipe) the basil over the cheese and tomatoes.
Drizzle olive oil over the cheese and tomatoes, followed by a full-flavored balsamic vinegar.
Serve and eat immediately. The salad is also delicious served on toasted ciabatta - just toast and throw a little more olive oil on the bread first.
What's your favorite simple salad? Let me know in the comments!
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