One of the most honorable uses of tomatoes in the summer is to assemble a Caprese salad. Ya’ll, I had to look this up but Caprese salad means salad in the style of Capri and originated in the Italian region of Campania.
I think my first revelation about this came years ago when I realized that mozzarella for this salad does not come in a plastic bag hanging in the cheese section of the supermarket. In fact, most supermarkets don’t carry the kind of mozzarella you need which is fresh, fresh, fresh and in a ball. Sometimes it comes in a plastic tub filled with liquid. Lately, I’ve seen it at The Fresh Market just wrapped in plastic. You have to have this or don’t even bother.
The second thing you have to have are real tomatoes. You can only make this salad during tomato season. It drives me absolutely up the wall to go into a restaurant in January and see this salad on the menu. I always ask the waiter if the tomatoes are in season. Trick question. The waiter is usually clueless and assures me they are. Liar, liar, pants on fire! If you order this salad in January, you will get what you deserve: flavorless orbs injected with chemicals to turn them red picked by slave labor in Florida. Not so appetizing, eh?
So, because I am so blessed to have a great farmer’s market nearby, this time of year I pick up not only the traditional red tomatoes, but also sweet yellow ones and beautiful heirlooms like the green zebra. Layer them with the fresh mozzarella, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a sprinkling of freshly ground salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the dressing. Fall into a chair delirious with the bounty of the summer harvest.