After feeding my little flock of chickens this morning, I walked over to the vegetable garden to see what needed picking. Well, just about everything. Cucumbers, squash, corn, and tomatoes. I was happiest about the tomatoes. What I thought would be an early harvest turned out not to be so. Some of my tomatoes, for some unknown reason, are taking their good time about ripening. The wait is worth it, though. I picked enough juicy red globe tomatoes for one of our most loved summer salads: Caprese.
Are you a purist when it comes to Caprese salad? Jimmy Bonaminio, of Jungle Jims International Market, sure is. Jimmy, one of “Jungle” Jim Bonaminio’s sons, was a guest on my cable show more than a few years ago. The theme was salads for summer.
I still remember what he said while assembling “the authentic” version of Caprese salad. “Farm fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh Italian basil, quality olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Nothing else,” he said.
Me? I’m in Jimmy’s camp when it comes to Caprese salad. But then again, there are those of you who prefer a tangy vinaigrette drizzled over the salad.
When I teach a class that includes this famous Isle of Capri salad, I usually give 2 versions, one classic and the other with a mustard basil drizzle.
Maybe you’d like to try one or the other, or both. Now’s the time to do that since tomatoes are in season and just perfect, taste wise.
Ditto for basil — in fact, if yours is flowering, pinch the flowers off. Otherwise, the plant will go to seed, compromising the flavor and quality of the leaves. Culinary herb flowers are edible, so don’t toss them.
Jimmy’s Caprese salad
Use whatever tomatoes you have. It’s nice if the slices are about the same size as the mozzarella slices.
Fresh high quality mozzarella cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cut tomatoes in thick slices, a good 1/4” or so.
Cut mozzarella in thick slices, same as tomatoes. If cheese is wet, pat with paper towel to dry.
Shingle mozzarella and tomatoes on platter, going around in a circular pattern, or in rows.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Finish with basil leaves, torn or gently chopped.
Caprese salad with basil mustard vinaigrette
Follow instructions in Jimmy’s recipes for slicing tomatoes and cheese and assembling on platter. Don’t add anything on top since you’ll be drizzling with this vinaigrette.
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 scant teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Palmful fresh basil, cut into julienne or torn into very small pieces
Just put everything but basil in a jar and give it several good shakes. The mustard will allow the dressing to emulsify, making it creamy. Adjust seasonings.
Stir in basil.
Drizzle over salad.
Garnish with more basil.