Summer is tomato and basil season, and there is nothing easier to make than a fresh Caprese salad.
What Are the Ingredients for Caprese Salad?
Caprese salad is made with just three basic ingredients—tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, and perhaps add a dash of balsamic vinegar over the top to bring all the flavors together.
That's it! Easy.
Since there are so few ingredients, it's important that they are of the highest quality you can find. Use tomatoes grown and picked in season such as heirlooms (summer to late summer), fresh mozzarella (buffalo mozzarella if you can find it), and a high quality robust extra virgin olive oil.
What Are Heirloom Tomatoes?
Heirloom tomatoes are what tomatoes used to be before all of the variety and flavor were bred out of them so they could be more easily transported in trucks to supermarkets.
You can find them at farmers' markets, Whole Foods and many supermarkets these days, or you can grow your own. They come in many shades of red, yellow, orange, and green, and are somewhat oddly shaped compared to everyday beefsteak tomatoes.
Heirloom tomatoes bruise more easily than conventional tomatoes, so you have to handle them with a little more care. They cost more, too, but they're worth it! They're juicy and have wonderful flavor.
How to Check If Your Olive Oil Is Good
All oil goes rancid if left to sit around. So taste your olive oil! If it tastes like old peanuts or crayons, it's rancid—throw it out. If it doesn't taste like much of anything, and feels greasy in your mouth? It's lost all the quality attributes that allowed it to be labeled "extra."
A fresh high quality olive oil should taste fresh, and often peppery or grassy.
What to Serve With Caprese Salad?
Caprese salad is the quintessential summer salad, perfect for a light lunch, an alfresco weeknight dinner, or backyard gathering. It can be served as an appetizer or as a side dish, and goes well with anything coming off the grill, like grilled chicken, grilled steak, or grilled fish.
How Far Ahead Can You Make Caprese Salad?
Make Caprese salad just before you plan to serve it. Tomatoes can become mealy and lose their flavor if refrigerated for too long.
Soon after you salt the tomatoes they will start to release their juices, so if you have to make ahead, wait until serving to sprinkle with salt.
Got Tomatoes? Here Are 5 Ways to Use Them:
Caprese Salad With Tomatoes, Basil, and Mozzarella
One medium tomato (1/3 pound) yields enough for a salad for one person, a large tomato (3/4 to 1 pound) yields enough for two people. So scale the recipe up or down accordingly. If you are serving 4 people, you'll need about 4 medium-sized tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes. (These proportions yield a generously portioned salad.)
For a completely different flavor, you can substitute the mozzarella with thin slices of Parmesan.
Feel free to omit the balsamic vinegar if you want highlight more of the flavor of the tomatoes.
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick (a serrated knife works best for slicing tomatoes)
- Coarse salt like kosher salt or sea salt
- 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves carefully chopped or torn as not to bruise
- 8 ounces, fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Dash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Salt the tomatoes:
Sprinkle salt lightly over the tomato slices.
Assemble the salad:
Assemble the salad by arranging alternating slices of tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella slices.
Dress the salad:
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the salad. Add a dash of balsamic vinegar, if using. Sprinkle lightly with pepper.