Chef John’s Caprese Salad
This classic salad from the island of Capri, just off Italy’s southern coast near Naples, relies on just four perfect ingredients: vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, bright green basil and fruity olive oil. Use only the very ripest tomatoes, as their juices mix with the olive oil to make the dressing. It is important that the oil be of the highest quality, because the difference between an average and a superior one will be evident here.
One of Italy’s best-known cheeses, fresh mozzarella is soft and spongy textured. It is sold packed in liquid at most supermarkets, cheese stores and Italian groceries. Fresh mozzarella was traditionally made from the milk of the water buffalo, but cow’s milk is used elsewhere and increasingly in Italy, as well.
5 vine-ripe, heirloom, or 40 cherry tomatoes,
(cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, wedges, or on half for cherry tomatoes. I often combine several different types of tomatoes.)
1-pound fresh low-fat mozzarella, 1/4-inch thick slices
20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil (you can keep the leaves whole, or finely julienne or chiffonade them to scatter on the top of your salad.)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
3-tablespoons capers, drained
Coarse salt and pepper (I like to use Cypress flake salt or Grey salt, found at Whole Foods)
1: You can compose your salad in a variety of ways. You can layer the tomatoes with basil leaves and the cheese, or you can make your salad more deconstructed. It’s up to you. Also, you can compose this salad on a large platter or on individual plates.
2: Drizzle the salad with a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil, and then a little balsamic.
3: Scatter a teaspoon of the capers on each plate or on platter if serving family-style.
4: Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
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