Absolutely everyone knows the classic Caprese Salad (or should).
The quickest, easiest and most delicious starter you can serve with an Italian meal and I can hardly call this a recipe. However, it is the little touches that make a big difference and I do love my version the most so I thought I would share my tips. Freshness is the key, so you should aim to reduce the time from garden to mouth (or from packet to face), to as little as possible. Make this right before serving and do not dress the salad until you are just about to eat it.
4 medium ripe and freshly picked tomatoes. Tomatoes that have stood a little while soften and deepen in colour and develop a stronger, riper flavour which is fantastic for cooking with. But in THIS salad, I prefer a fresh-off-the-vine, firm, pink flesh that still has that not-entirely-ripe vibrance to its taste.
1 punnet of Fresh Basil – Fresh, crispy, turgid leaves are key.
A big fist-sized ball of good quality Mozzarella. This makes the biggest difference so taste and find one that YOU absolutely love. The mozzarella defines the flavour and this boils down to personal taste, but I prefer a more pungent and matured mozzarella in my Caprese.
Fresh Basil Pesto
Good quality Balsamic Vinegar. Again, spend the time and effort and keep trying till you find one you absolutely love. Find one you want to dip bread into, dip strawberries into, one that want to try and sneak into every dish.
Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I have an overdeveloped sense of smell so I cannot stand olive oils that smell too much like freshly cut grass. I do appreciate that element to be present very subtly, but it is almost as if some oils these days are “flavoured” to smell like cut grass (the culinary version of cheap perfume). Find one that is fresh and that you could stand to sip neat.
The rest is easy! Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella thinly, try get them the same thickness and layer as per Italian flag. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or, if you have time, soak the tomatoes in balsamic in separate bowl before layering for a stronger flavour). Dot each tomato with a dab of pesto. Grind black pepper and a pinch of Flaked Sea Salt (like Maldon Salt) over the entire platter but keep it subtle. And for the final touch, sprinkle about a tablespoon of fresh pine nuts over.