I absolutely love a good caprese salad! There is just something so flavorful and refreshing when combining ripe tomatoes, a superb quality mozzarella, and fresh basil. Of course we can't forget about the olive oil! And not just any olive oil...a good one! It really makes a difference.
The caprese salad is a very simple dish to create. But if your ingredients are not top notch, your salad won't be either. You need the tomatoes to be at their finest. Typically, tomatoes are at their peak starting in June and lasting into September or possibly October depending on your location. You can use whatever variety you wish. Italian Sweet Beefsteak, Heirloom Red Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, basic Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, or whatever is freshest and available to you.
When it comes to mozzarella, don't buy a standard rubbery ball of mozzarella. No no no, that just won't do. Go for a fresh, creamy, preferably grass-fed mozzarella. It is out of this world delicious! I found some Búf at my local Whole Foods. It is super fresh, free range, and grass-fed. Check out their story! If you don't have access to this brand, shop around for the best quality in your area. Preferably buffalo.
And of course the fresh basil adds something special. The flavor just really brings things together. Look for basil without any dark spots on the leaves. Just vibrant green. As far as the balsamic vinegar goes, it is common to see a caprese salad drizzled with a balsamic reduction. But did you know that a true caprese salad is not served with balsamic? Yep, it's true folks. The theory is that if you are using the freshest and highest quality ingredients, the only thing the balsamic vinegar will do is mask those incredible flavors. Now why would you want to do that? So I encourage you to leave off the balsamic reduction and enjoy the fresh flavors all of the other ingredients bring you. If you insist on using a balsamic reduction drizzle, I have included a link that is really helpful to showing you an easy way to make your own.
1 1/4 pounds excellent quality ripe tomatoes, 1/3 inch slices
7-10 ounces excellent quality fresh buffalo mozzarella, 1/3 inch slices
1/4 cup excellent quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Balsamic reduction, optional
1. Marinate the tomato slices 30-60 minutes before serving. Put the tomato slices in a shallow bowl with a pinch of sea salt. The salt will draw out the water and leave you with some delicious juice. If time does not permit, simply skip this step and dress the tomatoes and mozzarella as you make the dish.
2. Once marinated, remove the tomatoes and pour the juice and olive m=oil mixture from the bowl into a small jar. Shake the contents to blend well.
3. On a serving dish, alternate layering the tomato slices with the mozzarella slices. Pour the tomato juice/olive oil mixture over the tomatoes and mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with the fresh basil leaves and top it with a touch more olive oil for good measure. If you choose to use some balsamic glaze, drizzle that over the top as well. Serves 4-6.