I am sure I have mentioned that my kooky brain remembers food in scary detail....
The first time I had a caprese salad was in a pizza chain restaurant. It was okay but nothing special and if I hadn't been served an amazing one a few months later I think I would have always put caprese salads in the take it or leave it category of my food brain.
The first was evenly cut rounds of rubbery mozzarella, thick slices of slightly too tart tomatoes and a sprig of basil garnish. That was it. Now that is essentially a caprese salad. Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil. The red, white and green of the Italian flag. But the ingredients didn't sing. The dish didn't shout eat me. And most importantly it didn't taste wonderful.
The second was in a small family run Italian restaurant, a restaurant that after a few visits, became a very frequent haunt of ours. The food was great, simple, tasty Italian home cooking, the service was friendly and the bill was on the cheap side of reasonable. We'd gone on a random weekday when they did the midweek set menu. Caprese Salad and bread to start. This caprese salad had torn chunks of milky soft buffalo mozzarella, small wedges of plum tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, shredded basil leaves and was seasoned at the table with cracked black pepper. It was divine. AND they brought
me us a basket of ciabatta to soak up the tomatoey, oily juices.
For main course I had a roasted vegetable lasagne and balsamic drizzled grilled pears for pud. Total aside but it is the sort of thing I would want to know if someone was telling me about a starter they had eaten 😉
So caprese salad moved from 'nah' to 'yeah' and I was introduced to the amazing, milky, soft taste of buffalo mozzarella.
I have made a few additions to the traditional caprese salad. Olives and some sun dried tomatoes. I like the salty hit they give. I also serve it on a giant crostini, which soaks up all the delicious juice and means I don't eat a whole loaf of bread with my lunch.
The quantities below are all open to adaption....I have, on occasions, eaten the whole mozzarella for myself 😳 and if I am out of sun dried tomatoes I up the olives.
Buffalo mozzarella is a must here. This salad goes from being delicious to nothing special if you use the rubbery plastic mozzarella. And tear it into pieces. It is an amazing cheese and cutting it just doesn't do it justice, you end up squashing out the milkiness and destroying the soft texture.
- 12 mini roma tomatoes (or mini plum tomatoes)
- 4 slices of wholemeal bread
- 8 black olives
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
- 2 tbsp basil oil or extra virgin olive oil if you have no basil oil
- Cracked black pepper
- Small bunch of fresh basil (finely shredded)
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters.
- Lightly toast the bread, and using a cookie cutter create a crisp circular crostini. Alternatively you can leave the toast as a square. Just be sure to remove the crusts.
- Gently squash your olives into pieces.
- Slice the sun dried tomatoes into small strips.
- Rip the mozzarella into bite sized chunks.
- Plate up your salad, with the crostini on the bottom, then tomatoes, mozzarella chuck, sprinkle over the olives and sun dried tomatoes.
- Drizzle over the oil and garnish with a good grinding of black pepper and your shredded basil leaves.