Does anything say summer more than fresh garden tomatoes? Well, besides grilling out, picnics at the beach, water sports, and all of that… But, if you are anything like me, even a little, grilling out doesn’t necessarily indicate summer, as I do that all year ‘round. But, tomatoes are a clear indication of summer. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never seen real, delicious, ripe tomatoes in the middle of winter! (I am seriously of the opinion that someone in my community needs to build a greenhouse to grow fresh produce for all of us during the winter months. It could be like a community co-op kind of thing, where you have to pay so much for the privilege of going there or something, but I think it would definitely be worth it. That’s another story, though…) And how could you not feel in a summery mood with such a beautiful, fresh salad like this? I honestly don’t think it’s possible…
Now, I realize that there are about a million of these “recipes” floating around out there, and about a hundred different ways to arrange them, but these are my little concoctions. I’ve even seen stacked Caprese salads! While visually stunning, it seems to be a waste of time and energy… I mean, you can’t eat a giant stack like that without having to disassemble it and everything before eating it. And I like to enjoy my masterpieces just as they are!! But, the fact of the matter is, pretty much every Caprese salad is the same thing. And that’s just fine with me! These things are so delicious, it doesn’t even matter.
One of my recent favorite ingredients is a balsamic reduction. Yes, you very well CAN make your own reduction, and if you want to I am more than happy for you to do just that. However, these days, I have slightly less time for stuff like that… And there are so many genuinely great products on the market, it seems silly to slave over a hot stove all day when you can have someone else do that for you! The only thing I would highly recommend is that you look for a balsamic reduction that says it’s a product of Italy. Not saying that other people don’t know how to make a good reduction or anything, but it’s a well-known fact that Italians know a thing or two about good balsamic vinegar. The one that I use, and really like, is called Cream of Balsamic and is imported by Isola Imports, which a local gourmet cheese store in my area carries. These guys have a lot of really great products, so I would definitely recommend checking them out, when you have time! (And, no, I am not being paid to say that, nor have I received any other kind of compensation for telling you about them. It’s just a great product and I want to share it with all of you! :-))
As for the basil, that is my favorite herb and I probably overuse it, according to some people’s standards. So, I didn’t give an amount for that, because I want you guys to use as much or as little as you like… The same goes for the pine nuts; use as much or as little as you like. And here’s the thing about pine nuts - they taste TERRIBLE if they’re not fresh! I’m sure other nuts are very much the same, but I can’t remember having any other nuts after they’ve gone rancid. And, for some reason, pine nuts are more susceptible to this than others. If you’ve ever been so unfortunate as to have eaten a rancid pine nut, it will make you dislike them more than just about anything. But, they’re really not so bad if they’re fresh! So, I make it a point to take all nuts and stuff like that from the very back of the shelf… The stockers at the grocery store rotate all of the stuff, so the freshest product is always in the back. With highly perishable stuff (even milk and cheese), I prefer it to be as fresh as possible. Even if people do look at me like I’m some kind of crazy lady for digging all the way to the back of the shelf! :-D
Now, for the skewers, I just bought two containers of tomatoes from the grocery store, one of plain red grape/cherry tomatoes and the other the yellow variety. It never hurts to be colorful! When I bought my mozzarella, I hadn’t had plans for what I was going to do with it (it was on sale), so I bought the container of small ones. For this, if I was planning in advance, I probably would have gotten them a little bit bigger, but it’s more than easy to make do with what you have. And you can arrange them on the skewers however you’d like, and even do more on one skewer, but I thought they looked rather pretty this way. You could cut the basil up and alternate it between layers of mozzarella and tomatoes, though… Or you could decide to only do one tomato and one mozzarella per skewer… Whatever you would like to do with your skewers will be more than okay. Be creative! :-)
2 large red (or heirloom) tomatoes
2 heirloom tomatoes
16 oz. fresh mozzarella
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Balsamic Reduction Sauce
Fresh basil, chiffonaded
Salt and pepper
Slice the tomatoes approximately ½-inch thick and set aside; slice the fresh mozzarella to the same thickness and set aside. To arrange the Caprese salad, place one of each of the tomato slices together and arrange however you wish, followed by one slice of mozzarella. Continue arranging the tomatoes and mozzarella until you have no more left or run out of room on the plate. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the tomatoes and mozzarella, followed by a fair amount of the balsamic reduction. Sprinkle some fresh basil and pine nuts over the top of the salad, followed by the salt and pepper just before serving.