I recently purchased a caprese salad at a local Italian restaurant and sadly, I found it rather tasteless. The tomatoes were hard as a rock because they were way, way, under ripe and were completely devoid of, well, tomato flavor. To make this caprese salad even worse was that the slices of tomato and cheese were huge and because the tomatoes were so firm, I had to use a steak knife to slice my way through their fork-resistant flesh.
To me, salads should be daintier than the way they are commonly found in restaurants. I think that restaurants should be more considerate of their salad-ordering demographic when preparing them. Let’s face it; there aren’t very many men out there who will eat a salad unless it actually comes with their meal – even then, they usually just pick at it, leaving all the lettuce and eating only the bacon and tomatoes on top. Plus, women are more likely than men to order salads as their main course (we are always on some sort of diet, aren’t we?). We don’t want to have to hack at our plate full of leafy greens just to gather up a reasonable forkful (have you actually ever watched someone try to eat an overgrown plate of coarsely chopped salad? Yeah…), but we don’t want the pieces to be so shredded, slivered, or diced to where we can’t differentiate the flavors and textures of what we are eating.
Because I spent a good $8.50 for an unremarkable salad, I decided to come up with my own version. This way, I can control the quality and size of the ingredients.
To me, a caprese salad has to have the basics: tomatoes; mozzarella; and basil. Of course, most caprese salads are also seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. While these flavors are all excellent together, I thought that my version of a caprese salad needed to have a kick.
So I decided to make a balsamic glaze to round out the flavors of the salad and add a little bit of sweetness and a touch of tangy sass. I have to say that the balsamic glaze MAKES this caprese salad. I love to let the mozzarella soak up all that rich, thick, balsamic syrup.
I have to warn you though, heating balsamic vinegar will make your entire kitchen smell horrible, but the taste that results is so worth it!
In this recipe, I opted to use lemon infused extra virgin olive oil instead of unadulterated extra virgin olive oil. The freshness that the lemon olive oil adds is unmatched by ‘regular’ olive oil. I have found that infused olive oils are readily available, but making your own is just as easy.
I have to say, I am always excited about the idea of food, but I am rarely as excited after eating food. My expectation for food that tastes as good as it looks is impossibly high and I usually end up disappointed with the final product. To me, there is no point in eating (and wasting those precious calories) food that is just mediocre. This is why I am never satisfied and am always looking for ways to improve classic recipes or coming up with new ones. Rarely do I ever find food that is just to die for – and even more rarely, do I come up with the recipe myself. This caprese salad has been the object of my obsession for the last several weeks. I can happily say that I have finally found the best caprese salad – that is, at least for now ;).
For the purpose of this post, I used cherry tomatoes sliced into three slices and used a small cookie cutter for perfectly round mozzarella disks making each component of the salad easily stackable on the fork for the perfect, dainty, mouth-sized bite.
- 2 medium vine-ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into disks
- ¼c – ⅓c fresh basil
- Lemon infused extra virgin olive oil (recipe to follow)
- Balsamic glaze (recipe to follow)
- Slice tomatoes and mozzarella; salt tomatoes only
- Arrange tomatoes; mozzarella; and basil in an alternating pattern; top with fresh ground pepper
- Drizzle with lemon infused olive oil and balsamic glaze
- ½c + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, separated
- Add ½ c balsamic vinegar to saucepan over medium heat
- Allow balsamic to simmer for about 8 minutes until reduced by half (don’t walk away at this point – the vinegar can easily scorch)
- Remove from heat; allow to cool slightly
- Add remaining 1 tsp balsamic vinegar to glaze; stir to combine
- **I personally like a little bit of an acidic bite to my caprese salad (not to mention that adding it makes the glaze easier to drizzle), but feel free to leave out the extra 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar if you prefer a sweeter, thicker glaze.
- 1 c extra virgin olive oil
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from one lemon
- Heat olive oil and lemon zest strips in a sauté pan for approx 10 minutes on medium-low heat
- Remove lemon peel
- Allow olive oil to cool completely before use