Saturday, 16 February 2008

I love this salad, I could eat it every day and it goes down particularly well in the summer, when the ingredients are especially fresh. I was going to call it Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil salad but a little research reveals that its actually called Insalta caprese and its from the Italian island of Capri!

There's a bit of debate about the exact make up of the salad particularly regarding the addition of vinegar. I use it. I believe that the Italians do not use it because they use firm, slightly green tomato's that are tart in themselves. I on the other hand use large, fully ripe and gloriously red tomato's whose sweet flavour go wonderfully with the sharp yet warm tang of balsamic.
You will need mozzarella as well, as fresh as possible; the type that comes in water is what you want and not the tough stuff that is usually used on pizza. I find that the poorer quality mozzarella is tougher and less milky than the good stuff! Also make sure that mozzarella is brought to room temperature before use, which will make sure the cheese is flavoursome.
I usually have a potted basil plant on the go so have plenty of basil at hand, I like to use whole leaves but you can also chop them.
Use the best extra virgin olive oil that you can get! The only other ingredients you will need are a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Slice the tomato and mozzarella to a reasonable thickness (¼ inch) and layer on your serving plate, pick the basil leaves and scatter over the plate, or alternatively place leaves between the tomato and mozzarella slices. Carefully pour over the extra virgin olive oil, I like a good glug drizzled all over use your thumb to make sure it does not overflow.
I like plenty of black pepper ground over my Insalta caprese and just a pinch of salt.
Now you can decide whether you will use vinegar or not, if you do I advice you ONLY use aged balsamic vinegar. The sweetness will really complement this salad but remember not to use too much.
There you go, that's Insalta caprese, there are no rules to making it but fresh, good quality ingredients are definitely worth using.

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