There is nothing that says summer to me more than eating a platter of caprese salad. I mean, yes there is no longer having to wear ten layers of outer wear, visiting the beach, and sitting out on the deck for dinner, among other things. These are clues summer is here. But caprese salad makes it official.
Every year I wait, with varying amounts of patience I’ll admit, for the first local tomatoes of the year to show up at the farmer’s markets and farm stands around here. While I do eat a fair amount of canned tomatoes through the winter and spring, I honestly don’t see the point of eating fresh tomatoes during those months since it only makes me miss the flavor of a ripe tomato even more. But when they do arrive? I rejoice. And then immediately buy a pile of them and make a caprese salad.
Here is a tiny one she made from a cherry tomato with a few slices of mozzarella and arranged on my little fish plate. That night we served it alongside a larger salad on my large fish plate. (I have four fish plates – one small, two medium, and one large. I love them for serving salads, both for their shape and because they are cute.)
I like my caprese salad either with mozzarella or with burrata. Either has a place on my dinner table weekly through the summer into the fall. Though the burrata version does have an edge since the soft, creaminess of the cheese mixes so beautifully with the juices of the tomatoes and the flavor of the olive oil.
While some argue for the simplicity of tomatoes, mozzarella (or burrata), basil, and olive oil only, I have always enjoyed balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top for its complex sweet, acidity which marries so well with all the other flavors in this salad.
I do, however, advocate for getting the best balsamic that is in your budget since the flavor differences between inexpensive balsamic and the more expensive, aged varieties is quite stark. Right now I have some fancy, fancy aged balsamic (a much appreciated birthday present) which has the consistency of syrup and is quite amazing. However, I have been using the nicer supermarket balsamic for years with good results as well.
I know burrata isn’t available everywhere yet (it only recently started making an appearance in my local supermarkets – it was a farmer’s market only purchase in previous years), but it is worth trying if you can find it. One thing to know about burrata is that it is a very soft cheese held together by its outer skin. So be very careful when handling it!
I take the top off the container over the sink and let most of the water out and then roll it into my hand over a towel before placing it onto the platter. While you can break it up and put dollops of it onto the tomatoes, part of the fun of burrata – at least in our house – is breaking the skin at the table and seeing it come apart. My daughter has the honor of breaking the burrata and taking the first scoop.
One more thing: We are not much tomato seeds in this house, so we seed all the tomatoes for anything we make, including this salad. Seeding or not is up to you. Part will depend on your feelings about tomato seeds and part will depend on how much tomato juice you want to mix with the oil and vinegar. I find that really ripe tomatoes have so much juice that they can drown out the other flavors if you don’t seed them.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
- 2-3 large ripe tomatoes
- 8 oz burrata or mozzarella, packed in water
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- basil, sliced thinly
- salt and pepper, to taste
- For a burrata salad I like the tomatoes cut up in wedges and arranged around the ball of burrata (saving the 'breaking of skin' for the table so everyone can enjoy it), and for a mozzarella version I like the tomatoes sliced and interspersed with the slices of mozzarella.
- Depending on your cheese, arrange the tomatoes and cheese on the plate. Whisk together the oil and vinegar and pour over the salad.
- Top with basil.
- Grind some fresh salt and pepper over the top.
- If you have some aged, syrupy balsamic vinegar, then save adding the vinegar for the table. Dress the salad simply with olive oil and drizzle a bit of the vinegar onto your serving of salad. This keeps the balsamic from getting diluted.