Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Insalata caprese

The version is layered, and uses three types of tomato. I'd like to say I grew the basil, but mine was destroyed by aphids, so this is from the market. Still tastes good!

There must be thousands of versions of this online and in books. But it's one of my all-time favourite dishes, and now's the perfect time to make it, with an abundance of ripe tomatoes coming from the garden.

It's hardly a recipe at all - which is probably why I like it so much. It's just a matter of combining the six ingredients, more or less prettily, and eating them. The simpler a recipe, the more important the quality of each ingredient - there's nowhere to hide. So, indulge yourself and buy the best you can (homegrown produce is even better).

Insalata caprese (Capri-style salad)
  • the best-quality tomatoes you can find, at the peak of ripeness
  • buffalo mozzarella (the fresher the better), brought to room temperature
  • fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt (Maldon, or another coarse sea salt is perfect)
  • black pepper, freshly cracked
  • slice the tomatoes, or cut them into chunks - whichever you find more appealing. Slice or tear the mozzarella into chunks about the same size as the tomato.
  • arrange the cheese and tomato on a plate, or in a bowl, roughly mixed together, or layered alternately.
  • tear the basil over the top, or layer the leaves between the slices, if using.
  • sprinkle over salt (if using coarse sea salt, crush it between your fingers as you sprinkle) and pepper to taste, and drizzle as much oil as you like.

It's pretty, not terribly unhealthy, takes no time to make, and is delicious at any time of year. If I had the money, and access to the best ingredients, I would eat it every other day.

Incidentally, the price of the plateful above works out around £1.25. I used bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), which are a little more expensive than full-sized cheeses; I used around 1/3 of a pack. The basil was 99p a pack, of which I used no more than a fifth. The tomatoes were free, and the oil and seasonings were a penny or two each, at most.

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