April 3, 2012
Sometimes simple is best and I think the Italians really got it right with Insalata Caprese, a very uncomplicated little salad.
As with all good food, it’s the quality of the ingredients that count. There are mozzarellas and mozzarellas, some fantastic and others just so-so. This is a dish where the key ingredient is the best buffalo mozzarella you can lay your hands on.
Next you’ll need some really good tomatoes. Go on, feel them, sniff them. Some may look perfect but turn into sad, soft watery imitations overnight.
Basil is next. This is a fickle herb and it can be hard to pick the good stuff. Some of the cut stalks can live happily in a damp paper towel or a sealed plastic bag in the fridge for two or three days. Other times it will turn dark green and nasty overnight. I usually buy mine growing in a small pot and put it in a medium ceramic plant pot on the bench and water it lightly each day. It will generally last until all the leaves have been picked. If you grow your own, so much the better.
A truly good fruity extra virgin olive oil is a must – one with plenty of flavour. Don’t use the cheap mass-produced stuff. Go for one where they’ll let you taste before you buy. It will cost you more but then you’ll be using it as a condiment, a dressing, rather than for cooking.
Now all you need to do is slice the tomatoes and the mozzarella and arrange on an attractive dish. Throw over some basil leaves, drizzle with your best olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly milled pepper. And eat it soon. Don't let it wallow.
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