While visiting Italy a few years ago, we marveled at the flavors created by simple, quality ingredients. Caprese Salad was on our list of classic Italian food to savor; it was a memorable part of our trip. Traditionally served as a starter, or appetizer, it can also be a refreshing summertime lunch. With only a handful of ingredients, it is vital that each one is carefully selected, preferably at seasonal peak. April is a little early to find the best tomatoes or basil, but I’ll do my best since it is a special request for my husband’s birthday dinner.
Authentic Caprese Salad is made with buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala), made from the milk of domesticated water buffalo. Although there are a few water buffalo herds in the U.S. producing dairy and meat, it is easier to find imported buffalo mozzarella in stores like Whole Foods, Costco (seasonally), or specialty shops. When you taste this amazing salad, you’ll want to thank a water buffalo if you can find one 😉 … I still have The Water Buffalo Song in Silly Songs with Larry by Veggie Tales stuck in my head from when my kids were little.
Of course, fresh cow’s milk mozzarella is a fine substitute for this salad, just be sure it is a quality cheese for best results.
Serves: 4 as an appetizer
3-4 whole plum tomatoes — sliced 1/4″ thick
16 whole basil leaves — washed and dried
1 pound buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala) — sliced 1/4″ thick
extra virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper
Allow cheese to sit on a paper towel-lined plate at room temperature for 30 minutes to absorb extra liquid until ready to slice and serve. This salad should be served cool, but not cold.
On a large platter or plate, arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices so there is an even number of slices of each. Arrange basil as a garnish on top so that there is 1-2 basil leaves for each serving of tomato and cheese, or sprinkle julienned basil over the cheese and tomato.
Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the tomato, cheese, and basil; season with salt and fresh ground pepper.