Is there a summer salad that screams ‘summer’ more than tomato and mozzarella? It’s hands down the taste of the Mediterranean and even though it’s quite frankly the simplest of dishes – basically cheese and tomato, it delivers big on nostalgic flavour (I feel we need a name for this, perhaps a portmanteau of flavour and memory but ‘flemory’ doesn’t quite work does it?) It always transports me back to warm summer nights in my favourite Mallorcian town of Pollensa. Sitting in a restaurant on the Calvario steps and eating this salad, laced with pesto (and potentially vodka with Fanta Limon.)
The classic Caprese Salad is often served with the tomato and mozzarella sliced alongside some freshly torn basil and drizzled with olive oil and then seasoned with salt pepper and a little oregano. There is really nothing more to say. If the quality of the ingredients are good (and believe me, you can get some nasty cheap mozzarella to say nothing for those insipid, uninspiring rock hard tasteless tomatoes that should be banned) then you’re winning.
People will adapt and change of course. A beef tomato is always a winner but baked cherry tomatoes, slow-roasted in olive oil and balsamic vinegar work wonders, as they begin to slowly melt the mozzarella! I love a plum tomato and if you can get fresh ones – and there seem to be quite a few in the supermarket at the moment, then you must try them. A little tip is to leave the tomatoes o a sunny window ledge for an hour or two prior to eating… that warmth adds something special. Avocado adds an extra dimension but of course this is then more akin to a Tricolour Salad, named after the colours of the Italian flag. Try and find a classic Buffalo Mozzarella. Regular milk mozzarella’s aren’t terrible but there’s nothing to beat that incredible, authentic taste. Galbani make a really good one and they’re available in most good supermarkets.
a summer salad
A Caprese is typically served as a starter or apertivo. Mine is more of a meal in itself as i’ve added large chunks of avocado and have fried off some veggie sausages (although some wonderful spicy chorizo sausages would work wonders here. I’ve also bulked it up with a bag of salad leaves so it becomes more substantial. I’ve kept the dressing and the flavours very basic though and it’s wonderfully easy to knock together for an impromptu lunch or light dinner.
- 4 veggie sausages – thinly sliced
- 1 large bag of mixed salad leaves
- 2 packets of fresh mozzarella – torn
- 3 fresh plum tomatoes – thickly sliced
- 1 packet (roughly 15) mixed colour baby tomatoes (many of the supermarkets are now selling these adorable mixed coloured tomatoes and they’re really very good and add texture and flavour)
- 2 or 3 stalks of fresh basil – torn
- roughly 2 teaspoons of fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 2 avocado’s – peeled and sliced into thick wedges
- salt and pepper
- extra-virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
fry up the veggie sausage slices in a little olive oil and once they’re nice and crispy, set aside
How you present your salad is up to you… you can lay the bag of salad down first and then lay the slices of tomato out and place the other ingredients on top but to be honest I like to throw all the ingredients into a large shallow salad bowl and mix together, then season excessively with salt and pepper and extra fresh herbs, then drizzle plenty of olive oil on top, a few dashes of balsamic and get stuck in!
eat and of course, enjoy!