Learning about food, photography, and writing. Sharing what I find.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Caprese (That's, cah-PREHY-zay)

Let's start at the beginning. My favorite meals are those that involve 4-5 fresh, fresh ingredients (Not including salt, pepper, and oil. Those don't count), minimal preparation, and maximum flavor. Everyone should have an arsenal of these types of recipes from which to pull in order to maintain sanity during the week. Now, I'm not talking about your mom's 30-minute baked chicken, white rice, and frozen peas. We should know by now that easy does not have to mean bland. This is what the Italians have taught me, anyway.

If I learned anything from Italian cuisine it is that buffalo mozzarella makes everything better. Seriously. Add a chunk of fresh mozz ("moohtz" with the "oo" pronounced like "book" for those not born and bred in the New York tri-state area) to any mouthful of equally fresh ingredients—whether animal, vegetable, or mineral (?)—and enjoy the flavor-enhancing powers of this rich, creamy Italian invention. I love it plain, too, perhaps dipped in a bit of olive oil and salt. Yes, please!

I'm getting a little sidetracked here. Sorry, cheese does that to me.

I want to tell you about an Italian staple that anyone can accomplish and everyone will enjoy. It's the ever-popular, consistently-botched Caprese Salad (see pronunciation guide above and, for the love of Pete, please don't say, "Ca-PREECE"). There's no skill in preparing this meal; it's in the selection of materials that people usually get messed up. As always, just try to get the freshest, most in-season ingredients and don't be afraid to splurge a little on olive oil. Below is a quick run-down of two ways I make Caprese. The amounts vary according to preference and/or number of consumers:

  • 2-3 Balls of fresh Buffalo Mozzarella (or other kinds of fresh mozz . . . whichever your local Italian deli has)
  • 1-2 Heirloom tomatoes (or your favorite type of tomato)
  • (optional) Drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar for Method #1
  • (optional) Splash of red wine vinegar for Method #2
  • 5-10 Leaves of fresh basil (chop as close to serving as possible)
  • 2-3 Tbs. of extra virgin olive oil (find your favorite brand and stick with it!)
  • 2 Pinches of kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Method #1 (pictured above):

  1. Slice the Mozzarella into rounds about 1/2 centimeter thick and the Tomatoes as thinly as you can possibly muster (or aim for 1/2 the thickness of the Mozz).
  2. Drain on sheets of paper towel if excessively moisture-filled.
  3. Arrange Tomatoes on platter.
  4. (optional) Drizzle carefully with Balsamic Vinegar. The thicker and more aged the vinegar, the nicer it will look. If you prefer, you can do this at the end over everything, but I've noticed some vinegars make the Mozz look rather...icky).
  5. Top each Tomato with a corresponding Mozzarella round.
  6. Chop Basil leaves into thin strips and sprinkle evenly atop Tomatoes & Mozzarella.
  7. Drizzle entire plate with Oil.
  8. Sprinkle with Salt and ground Pepper.

Method #2 (pictured below sans Mozzarella. Sometimes it is nice to keep it to the side, depending on how quickly you will be serving it):

  1. Cube Mozzarella into 1/2 inch squares and dice Tomatoes similarly.
  2. Drain on sheets of paper towel if excessively moisture-filled.
  3. Dump Mozzarella and Tomatoes into a large salad bowl.
  4. (optional) Top with a generous splash of Red Wine Vinegar.
  5. Chop Basil well and stir into salad.
  6. Drizzle with Oil.
  7. Sprinkle with Salt and Pepper to taste.
  8. Stir gently to incorporate.

And that's it! People love it and it's something that the Italians REALLY eat virtually every day.


**For people who need more carbs with their salad, serve this fabulously fresh mixture with triangles of your favorite flat bread or oiled-and-pan-fried Naan. I know I'm mixing ethnicities, but Naan is another one of those things that makes everything better . . . I'm still looking for a really good Naan recipe . . . Anybody?

7 comments:

  1. Who in their right mind needs MORE carbs? They, to me, are the painted and voluptuous strumpets of the night... but allow me to pimp you some naan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qbCigxf_sc&feature=fvw

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  2. Makes me long for an Orviettan cliff edge pic-nic! Caprese and Chingalla and olives, and what was that cheese???
    Grace, this is beautiful!

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  3. "I love it plain, too, perhaps dipped in a bit of olive oil and salt. Yes, please!"

    YES PLEASE!!

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  4. haha, so I've been pronouncing it wrong (ca-PREE-cee) - thanks for the correction. We eat this pretty darn often in the summer, even with breakfast eggs and toast too.

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  5. Margo, that's the common mistake! You're not alone. :) We heard some Americans use that pronunciation at a panini shop in Cinque Terre. The Italians just smile and nod and probably bump the price up a few Euros.

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  6. Our pizzaria has the best Caprese Pizza here in Akron, Ohio.

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  7. I love this salad. However, if one wants Americans to pronounce it "correctly", perhaps the powers that be, whoever they are who decide American spellings of foreign words, should consider spelling it a bit more phonetically. It's very logical to pronounce the word cuh-prees based on the spelling.

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