Friday, March 11, 2011

Caprese Salad

Mr. Kim Chee and I were watching television the other day and, for the first time in months, flipped to the Food Network. I was instantly reminded why I don't like to watch it in the winter--the produce on TV always looks so good! It made me miss summer, and I got the hugest craving for a nice, fresh salad. So I made one of my favorites--caprese salad with grape tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

With just a few ingredients, you'll have yourself a salad that you'll be able to pull together in even the fall or winter.

I cut my tomatoes in half for ease of eating.

Traditionally, caprese salad is made with thick slices of regular-sized tomatoes. But being in the midwest, we're cursed with a lack of quality full-sized tomatoes. I really don't even eat regular tomatoes unless I can get heirlooms from the farmer's market--I get sick of buying washed out, watery-looking tomatoes from the store. I find grape (or even roma) tomatoes to be much more flavorful and pretty, even in the winter.

I opened a package of pearl mozzarella. I separated all the pearls and added them to the bowl with tomatoes.

If you can't find pearl mozzarella, you could cut up a ball of fresh mozzarella or use bocconcini (those little bite-sized balls of mozzarella that they sell in tubs packed with whey or water. I will admit, the bocconcini are much more attractive than the pearls.

I like red onion for its sharp bite and its crisp texture. The red onion I used was huge, so I just cut off a small piece. I'd usually use about a quarter of a regular-sized onion.

I cut it in half and then sliced it thinly.

Look how colorful the salad is already! And it's about to get even more colorful.

Garlic is next. Here's a note. I always seem to use too much garlic in this. I get the worst garlic breath. I should really know better at this point, but for some reason I n ever seem to learn.

The clove I used today was enormous. Look--you can see how it grew around a smaller clove. I would really recommend using a very small clove if you intend to eat this around anyone else other than your spouse. But I do so love garlic.

Mince it finely and throw it into the bowl with the rest of your salad.

Fresh  basil makes this salad extra nice. You could use dried, but it's not at all the same.

I pick off about half a dozen leaves, and stack them in a pile. They're going to get cut into nice little ribbons, or chiffonaded.

I roll the leaves tightly into a basil cigar.

Then they get cut up into thin ribbons.

Mmm. Look at that rainbow!

Give your salad a good sprinkling of pepper and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

I didn't salt the salad--the water would draw the moisture out of the tomatoes and would water down the dressing. I actually didn't miss the flavor of salt at all, but if you do, just salt the salad right before you plan on eating and serving it.

Balsamic vinegar gives the salad a tang. I usually use white balsamic vinegar, just because the regular kind will turn the mozzarella a dark color. But I didn't have any white balsamic, so I just used regular.

The brand of balsamic I use isn't sweet at all, so I added a small pinch of sugar.

Give everything a toss, top with whole basil leaves, and serve! Even if it's snowing out, you can pretend that summer is here.

Recipe: Caprese Salad

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 package pearl mozzarella (or fresh mozzarella cut into bite-sized pieces)
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
pepper, to taste
pinch of sugar

Combine all ingredients; toss and serve!

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