The easiest Italian salad (as an accompaniment or entrée or even light summer meal) to prepare, requires a fine balance of subtle flavors and adjustments depending on the ingredients used, so we’ll talk about all these little adjustments and how to accentuate the individual flavors to make them the best that they can be, before and after assembling them and especially before the last days of summer come along.
Strictly-speaking, tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, basil leaves and salt are all you really need to make a perfectly satisfying “caprese” salad but we’ll take it one step further by looking into little optional additions and methods to make the tomatoes taste better (if required) and by preparing a marinade for flavoring the bread croutons that will be used to complement all the delightful tomato and mozzarella juices left behind and to be mopped up.
When using fresh tomatoes, it’s better if they are not over-ripe nor too soft or they’ll fall apart and mixing different types of tomatoes is always better. If the tomatoes are already delicious, nothing needs to be done to them except for the addition of some salt but to accentuate their flavors even more, a slight hint of vinegar combined with the salt, for only 5 minutes before assembling the salad, will make their flavors explode into brightness without ever even noticing that little amount of added vinegar because even though a “caprese” salad will never require vinegar, the tomatoes might, to make them just right. The aim here is to balance out the acidity and sweetness of the tomatoes with the creamy and tangy mozzarella and the bite of the extra virgin olive oil as well as the salt and finally, the herby aroma of the fresh basil leaves.
The croutons to be prepared are flavored with the slightest hints of garlic, anchovy and oregano, as well as the usual salt, pepper and fresh basil, in an olive oil base and quickly oven-baked and just a little bit of this tasty dressing is also reserved and drizzled on top of the assembled salad too, giving it more body. The overall salad and croutons can be just as delicious without the tiny additions of garlic, anchovy and oregano, but changing things up once in a while is good and adds more variety to this simplest of salads. The choice is yours.
Because I prefer to see this dish as one for sharing and eating together out of one big plate and not to be prepared and served individually on individual plates, the balls of mozzarella are torn into smaller pieces and the bite-sized croutons are prepared to better absorb all the leftover juices of this dish, without leaving leftover crumbs in this shared dish.
To make a short story even shorter, try to make one last “caprese” salad before the summer is over, whether its your version or mine, okay ? … :)