A Salad for Summer

About 5 years ago I had my first caprese salad on a Saturday night at St. Elizabeth's rectory in Acton. I'd never even heard of this dish but from the first taste I knew it would be a favorite. The picture above is but one rendition of this treat whose ingredients are fairly simple: fresh (beefsteak) tomatoes; fresh mozzarella; basil; extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar; and salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sunday night at The Patio restaurant in Provincetown I ordered insalata caprese. The tomatoes were not native and thus left something to be desired. There was, however, an abundance of intensely fresh basil that almost made up for the bland tomatoes. Rather than slices of a large mozzarella as pictured above, this version was sprinkled, generously, with miniature mozzarella balls. The whole dish was lightly seasoned and was drizzled in just the right amount of EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Accompanied by a glass of pinot grigio it was a great beginning to a summer's evening meal of haddock on a risotto cake.

For lunch on Monday I went back to The Patio with a friend who had just arrived. We both ordered gazpacho and, on my recommendation from the previous evening's experience, the caprese. (The gazpacho was not very exciting and compared to the version Concord Teacakes has been offering this summer it was a disappointment. Teacakes' gazpacho is excellent and you should try it before this tasty cold soup leaves their menu.)

We hadn't noticed that the lunch menu included a caprese panini but the server assumed that's what we intended when we ordered. When the sandwiches arrived we almost sent them back but they looked so inviting we decided to keep them. The same tomatoes and mozzarella from the salad had been arranged between thick slices of focaccia bread and grilled to piping hot perfection. On one side of the plate was a good helping of that fresh basil and maybe a slightly too heavy drizzle of that dressing. Altogether - a wonderful treatment of traditional caprese ingredients.

In Concord, Serafina has a very worthy offering of this salad on their summer menu, although it's simply listed as "Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad" and not identified as caprese. Try it - you'll love it!

Want to make your own? Try this recipe.

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