Another stupendous, magnificently delicious summer staple is the caprese salad. It’s tried, true, and one of the great classics for a reason. It’s also delightfully (naturally) no-carb. And crazy delicious.
There is one requirement, though. In order to truly enjoy the caprese salad at its juiciest, richest, most velvety and palatable form, you’ve got to use the best ingredients. If you’ve had a caprese salad before and didn’t understand all of the praise, this is why.
The best caprese salad wants only the best ingredients. Of course, you can get by with out-of-season tomatoes or subpar olive oil, but it simply won’t be the same. To really get that super zestful, fragrant, and ripe taste, you’ve got to go with fresh. And best.
Use just-picked heirloom tomatoes or the most fresh, modern tomato varieties you can find. In parts of the country, the great tomatoes of summer are already being picked and eaten; by late July even the most northern tier of states will have excellent field-ripened tomatoes.
You could opt to use shredded mozzarella from a bag, but, like the out-of-season tomatoes, it won’t be the same. You want good, quality fresh mozzarella. You want your best extra-virgin olive oil, too, and your best balsamic vinegar.
I might mention that the classic Italian version does not include balsamic vinegar, but many modern recipes do. Try it out! See if you prefer your caprese with that complex acidity paired with a touch of sweet, or if you prefer it without. It all comes down to personal preference.
I would also recommend using balsamic vinegar over balsamic glaze. The glaze is simply the vinegar with added honey, sugar, or some other type of sweetner (which could definitely result in some blood sugar spikes later on).
From late July deep into September, when the tomatoes are at their most wonderful, the caprese salad is my go-to lunch easily three days a week. It’s so easy to make! Just make sure to use the good stuff. The final product? Summer perfection, on a plate.
The Caprese Salad
- Romaine lettuce (optional, but provides a great crunch)
- Two perfectly ripe, just-picked tomatoes, preferably the most flavorful heirloom varieties, like Cherokee Purple or Brandywine
- Sea salt
- Good quality, fresh mozzarella, sliced.
- 3 tablespoons, best quality extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
- 2-3 teaspoons best quality balsamic vinegar, or to taste (optional)
- 6-8 medium-sized basil leaves, washed and dried on paper towels
- On two salad plates, place a leaf of Romaine lettuce. (This is not truly necessary, but I like the lettuce. When you’ve eaten the tomatoes and mozzarella, you can cut up the lettuce leaf and toss it around in the juices left on the plate. Makes for a fabulous treat.)
- Slice the tomatoes and place one atop each lettuce leaf. Sprinkle salt atop each tomato slice (I grind sea salt atop the tomatoes.)
- Add a small slice of fresh mozzarella; I like a 1/4 inch thick slice, maybe 1 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches at most. Make them bigger if you like.
- Repeat the process with three more slices of tomato. On each salad, drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of the balsamic vinegar (or a little more).
- Roll up the basil leaves into little cigar-like cylinders, and thinly slice each leaf crossways. You will end up with little, curly shreds of basil. Toss a teaspoonful or two of shreds over each salad.