Lunchtime in Florence, Italy
It was lunchtime in Florence, Italy. Touring the huge central market, the Mercato Centrale, left us hungry and ready for lunch. The market was filled with colorful produce stands and wine shops, butcher counters and fishmongers, heavenly cheese shops and bakeries. The prosciutto counter alone left us tourists standing in awe. We tucked into a local ristorante.
We watched with curiosity as the waiter delivered a platter of thinly sliced Prosciutto, and a platter of freshly sliced tomatoes with mozzarella to the Italian family sitting next to us. Along with some bread and wine, it was a wonderful way to start a meal. Whenever I make a salad Caprese at home, I remember that sunny day in Florence.
Caprese Salad – The Essence of Summer
Salad Caprese is the essence of summer. Vine-ripened tomatoes, moist mozzarella cheese, and aromatic basil leaves. No cooking required, just slice, arrange, dress and enjoy. It’s the perfect example of the power of simplicity: simplicity allows great ingredients to shine.
With wonderful varieties of summer tomatoes available choose whatever looks best at your market – meaty Roma’s or colorful heirloom varieties. This week the red and yellow heirlooms made for a colorful Caprese.
When it comes to cheese, my favorite for a Caprese is buffalo mozzarella. Made from water buffalo milk, it has a sweet flavor and creamy texture. Buffalo mozzarella comes in a container surrounded with a milky liquid. Drain off the liquid and slice. Its messy to cut because of its softness but the flavor and texture are heavenly. Its hard not to skip the salad and gobble down the entire ball of cheese. It melts in your mouth.
There are also great cows milk mozzarellas available. Some are even pre-sliced for easier assembly, a nice time-saver. Choose a fresh style cheese, not the hard rubbery balls.
Traditionally a Caprese has basil leaves tucked between the layers of tomatoes and cheese and is dressed with good olive oil. Because we love basil, I also dress the salad with a basil dressing.
By stirring a tablespoon or two of basil pesto into olive oil (liquifying the pesto) you get a fragrant emerald green dressing. Click here for my basil pesto recipe. Another option, add a drizzle with good quality balsamic vinegar.
Whatever your choice in tomatoes, mozzarella and dressing, try making an easy salad Caprese this summer.
A few more links you might enjoy on tomatoes:
Information on heirloom tomatoes from Wikipedia
Varieties of heirloom tomatoes, more information
Great idea from Simply Recipes, turning the salad into Caprese mini sandwiches
Seasonally simple garden Heirloom tomatoes. Celebrating Summer’s arrival, from White on Rice Couple
Tomato Salad Caprese | Florence, Italy
- 4-8 fresh tomatoes depending on the size and how much you plan to serve
- 4-8 ounces fresh Mozzarella cheese
- a handful of fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons basil pesto see recipe here, preferably homemade
- 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- High quality balsamic vinegar optional
- Slice tomatoes about 1/4″ thick and place on a platter or plate. Drain and slice the mozzarella cheese. Place cheese slices between the tomato slices. Tuck fresh basil leaves in here and there.
- For dressing, stir together the basil pesto and olive oil until it’s a thin dressing. Drizzle over the salad and season with salt and pepper. As an option, splash on a little high quality balsamic vinegar but it’s lovely on its own.