Caprese Salad was first introduced to me while backpacking in Italy. Ziba and I, before kids, were staying at a family’s house that owned a vineyard and produced their own wine. However, they had a large beautiful garden and their main green for salads was basil.
Rosa and Massimo, the owners, would make us food after a long day of pruning their vineyard. For two weeks, a delicious Caprese Salad was almost always on the table. A little basil, a little tomato, some delicious mozzarella, minced garlic, and of course a drizzle of balsamic glaze with salt and pepper! Viola! It was delicious, so we pass on this fresh and healthy recipe in an appetizer and side dish form for you and your family to enjoy, back around your table.
From Prep to Completion 30 minutes or less
Temperature Balsamic Glaze: Bringing it to a simmer to reduce and thicken
Servings 4 to 6 person appetizer, or 4-6 side dishes
When It Is Done The Caprese Salad appetizers are assembled and drizzled with balsamic glaze, salt, pepper, and fresh minced garlic.
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Variations Heirloom tomatoes, omit the balsamic glaze, use crushed red pepper
A Little Bit About: Caprese Salad
Caprese salad is basically three ingredients… basil, mozzarella, and tomato. Yet, the most important thing to remember is freshness. Is the basil still on the stem connected to roots? are the tomatoes fresh with a slight pop or crunch to them? Is the mozzarella in fresh water and creamy? These key elements are what make this appetizer or side dish so flavorful.
When buying basil at the grocery store, look for the plant version, not pre-picked leaves. Like buying a plant at a nursery, the leaves will be fresh, crisp and ribbon-like and bright green.
Similarly, look for tomatoes that are still on the vine as they can remain fresh longer. However, you might also want to look for specialty tomatoes such as a medley of grape/cherry tomatoes, or heirlooms if you can find them! They are surely the most flavorful, with unique shapes, and quirky colors.
By and large, look for your mozzarella in the specialty cheese section. We love the brand BelGioioso Mozzarella, because it is fresh and you can find it in a log, pre-cut or in pearls! Give them a try and you will surely taste the difference.
Try your Caprese Salad with medley or heirloom tomatoes for a unique flavor and eccentric coloring.
How to Store Fresh Basil and Tomatoes
When it comes to storying herbs, they can be quite delicate. Some need room temperature air, others need a wet paper towel and refrigeration, while others need to be covered and kept cool. Either way the purpose is to keep your ingredients fresh, and full of flavor.
Basil is a bit different when it comes to some herbs. It enjoys a bit more warmth and condensation. Consider the idea that it needs its own greenhouse.
When buying a basil plant from the grocery store with the roots still connected, place it in a 32oz Ball Mason Jar with a Wide Mouth, and fill it with water until the the roots are slightly covered.
The finishing touch is placing a Gallon Size Ziploc Bag over the basil, down to the jar, and placed in a window that gets indirect sunlight so that you can create its greenhouse!
Lastly, when it comes to tomatoes, keep them at room temperature in open light, with nothing touching them as to keep them from bruising, getting mushy, or molding too soon. Room temperature tomatoes are always more flavorful than cold.
A balsamic glaze is simply made by reducing balsamic vinegar over the stove top. However, by adding ingredients such as sugar or spices you can enhance the flavor of your glaze to fit your needs.
Additionally, we love the Madhava brand, which you can purchase their organic balsamic vinegar in most grocery stores and you can get Madhava Organic Olive Oil here, which you will also use in this recipe!
Regarding reduction, most agree that you must reduce the vinegar by half, but it depends on how thick you desire the glaze. Give it a try and see if you like it more like syrup or molasses. Your glaze is ready when it coats the back of a spoon.
Making the Time
This week is the perfect time to sit down with your family, close friends, or even a stranger you just met, to make a delicious, healthy meal, and just learn about one another. I love my evening dinner with my family just learning about my children, and my wife. Making silly faces, cracking jokes, telling stories, and trying new foods that I get to appreciate.
Remember, making the time for enriching community is the epitome of life. Do not let yourself wander this week. Pick a recipe, pick a time and place, and invite some people over to enjoy what we all need most, love and relationship!
Mise en Place:
Read the recipe first | Lay out your ingredients | Prepare your tools | Start cooking
Caprese Salad Summertime Appetizer
Caprese Salad Summertime Appetizer
Ultimately, Caprese Salad is one of the freshest and best tasting, simple appetizers or side dish that you can serve. This recipe is a win-win for everyone. They are fun to eat, you can grow most of it in your garden and they are a great recipe to do with children, especially when it comes to assembly!
1 cup of balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp of brown sugar
12 oz of medley tomatoes, grape or cherry size, cut in half
1 large heirloom tomato, any color, cut into 8-12 slices
8 oz of BelGioioso mozzarella, sliced or pearls for appetizer
2 large garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
toothpicks, optional if doing appetizer
- In a medium sauce pan whisk your balsamic vinegar and sugar together. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and stir until glaze coats the back of a spoon and reduces to half. Roughly 10-15 minutes. Set your balsamic glaze to the side to cool and thicken.
- Appetizer – On each toothpick slide a half piece of tomato, a basil leaf or two, and a mozzarella pearl. Repeat until finished with the desired amount or until ingredients run out. Assemble on plate and then drizzle with balsamic glaze, top with minced garlic, and finish off with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
- Side Dish – Taking your sliced tomato, add two basil leaves and then a slice of mozzarella. Repeat process, layering in a circular pattern. Drizzle with balsamic glaze, top with minced garlic, and finish off with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
What to Consider
Caprese Salad can be served many different ways. You can add in ingredients such as avocado, a small cut of bacon, and even some fresh corn. Either way this is a fun, fresh, healthy recipe that will brighten your table with color and flavor!
Remember to keep your balsamic glaze in the fridge and save it for future recipes such as another Caprese salad or oven roasted vegetables such as squash, broccoli, and these Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.