I love simple. Easy. Quick. Do you? That’s why I love Caprese Salad.

Sliced, bright tomatoes alternated with creamy, fresh mozzarella…drizzled with olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, garnished with fresh basil leaves… yum!  Caprese means “from Capri”, that gorgeous island off the coast of Naples.

The views in Capri nearly take your breath away!

Capri is in the region of Italy, Campania, where Mozzarella di Bufala (mozzarella made from the milk of water buffalo) comes from. Water buffalo are actually quite homely…but don’t let that dissuade you. Their milk makes delicious cheese!

Though not readily available even here in northern Italy, I have tasted fresh buffalo mozzarella when visiting my good husband’s relatives in Naples. And I would agree with the natives…there’s no comparison between mozzarella made from cow’s milk and that made from buffalo milk. Here’s how one website described it: “[Fresh] cow’s-milk mozzarella is a ball of fresh cheese swimming in brine, pleasant as ice cream but absolutely tasteless.”

Fresh mozzarella is available almost everywhere these days…but it is different in both texture and taste from Mozzarella di Bufala, the cheese used to make a true Caprese Salad. Perhaps this is why most Americans prefer Caprese Salad with a splash of Balsamic vinegar to give it a bit more flavor than just olive oil and basil garnishing it.. Another option is to try this variation…

I decided to combine the flavors of Caprese Salad in a brand new way. Instead of just garnishing my sliced, fresh tomatoes with basil, I topped each slice with a little Basil Pesto and added a small piece of mozzarella. These I baked–in my toaster oven–for 5-10 minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese. They were yummy! I’ve decided to call them Baked Caprese.

Perhaps the name Caprese SALAD is a bit confusing since the Italians would eat Caprese either as an antipasta ( “before the pasta”), or as a main dish for a light supper, as we Americans might eat a Chef Salad. It would generally not be served as a side salad. These little Baked Caprese can be served as an appetizer, or one or two slices could be served as a side dish with fish, chicken, or almost anything. Well, not with a stir fry or an Asian meal…but nearly anything else.

When I had a garden, I used to make up triple batches of Basil Pesto about this time of year, before the frost killed my plants. I’d freeze it in ice cube trays and store it for the winter. If you don’t have basil plants, you can purchase some fresh basil, or just buy some pesto. Usually not as good as homemade but it will do. Do be careful, however, if you have a basil plant, to not use the leaves if the plants have gone to seed as it will be bitter. And I know you don’t want Bitter Basil Pesto. You can pinch back the flowering stalks (the seeds) and perhaps still get some sweet leaves before a frost.

(No recipe for this…just tomatoes, pesto and mozzarella…go for it!)


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