Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My Take on Caprese Salad

When you love food, summer is the most exciting time of the year.  I say this because this is when all the best foods are in season and when they're in season, they taste 20 times better.  There is no fruit or vegetable that this statement applies to more than tomatoes.  Nine months out of the year, tomatoes are dull, watery, and flavorless...but during summer, the tomato is transformed to one of the most delectable morsels you can get your hands on.  Specifically if you get them from a farmer's market or you are able to grow them in your own backyard.

A lot of people say they don't like tomatoes, I know because I use to be one of them.  I was that person who always picked the tomatoes out of her salad.  This is because I had never had a GOOD tomato.  Then last summer my dad brought home these tomatoes from the farm.  My parents would just slice them up and eat them raw with salt and pepper.  This seemed completely disgusting to me but I tried them out of curiosity.  O. M. G.  One bite and I was a convert.  I cannot describe the taste of a good tomato, I just know it tastes amazing, so you will have to try them this way if you haven't.

One of the most popular preparations of tomatoes is a caprese salad.  This basic salad consists of raw tomatoes, slices of mozzarella, and basil.  Today I have taken this salad to a whole new level.

Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables that is actually better cooked than raw.  When you cook tomatoes, it concentrates their flavor, and elevates the level of lycopene, a well known and powerful antioxidant.  So I figured, if raw caprese salad tastes great, cooked caprese salad must taste even better!  And so started my experiment.

I don't have a recipe for this so you will just have to follow along.  You want to start with a big, fat, ripe, tomato.  These are best for slicing.  When you get your big fat tomato, please do me a favor and do NOT put it in the refrigerator.  The compound that is responsible for the wonderful smell and taste of tomatoes is KILLED when you stick it in the refrigerator.  So please, do not refrigerate it.  Instead, place it on the window sill in your kitchen.  If you leave it there for a couple days, it will taste even better than it did when you brought it home.  

Back to the task at hand.  The first thing you'll want to do is remove skin off your tomato.  You do this buy submerging it in boiling water.  Pierce your tomato on the stem end with a fork and twirl it around for about 30 seconds.

Leaving the fork in, take a knife and slice a criss-cross pattern across the bottom.

This will make it really easy to pull back the skin.

Next, slice your tomato into slices about half an inch thick.
Having a thicker sliced tomato will allow it to stand up to the cooking process.

Tomatoes are very watery, so you will want to remove the gelatinous seeds from each pocket.
Since you're already at the cutting board, go ahead and chop your basil.  You're going to want to slice about 5 basil leaves into a chiffonade.  You do this by rolling up the basil leaves hamburger style and then slicing them thinly.

At this point, you'll want to heat a medium sized skillet over medium-highish heat (Like a 6).  While it is heating up, douse your tomatoes with olive oil, salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Place the tomatoes on the skillet and let them cook for 90 seconds.  Flip them over and allow them to cook another 90 seconds.  What we're looking to do here is cook the tomatoes enough that you get that concentrated flavor, but not so much that they are mushy.  You still want these to have some firmness when you're done.
Turn the heat off and sprinkle the tomatoes with some shredded mozzarella.  Cover the skillet with a lid so the cheese can melt.
Take a peak after a minute or so and the tomatoes should look like this:

Transfer to a plate and top with the chiffonade of basil you chopped earlier.  Add some more salt and freshly cracked pepper, and sprinkle a few drops of balsamic vinegar on top.  The vinegar will bring out the tomato's natural sweetness.



  1. I can't wait to try this. I have a ton of homegrown tomatoes to attempt this on too! Can't wait!

  2. Looks and sounds delicous. Still waiting for a nice size tomato to try this with. Next time try fresh mozzerala, creamy and refreshing. That's how the Italians do it. Mangia, Mangia Much!!