Monday, May 4, 2015

Caprese Salad with Grape Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Basil

So simple, with so much flavor!
There's not much in the produce world that can compare to the flavor of a fresh-picked tomato. But this flavor – that to some portrays the very essence of summer – is extremely vulnerable.  Make sure you don't refrigerate them, it changes the chemical structure and will lose their great flavor.

Growing up in an Italian household, tomatoes were a staple, and everyone I knew had a garden in their backyard.   Sometimes, the whole yard was a garden.  You couldn't find a patch of dirt that didn't have either a flower or a vegetable growing on it.

We had a huge garden and grew so many delicious vegetables.  In fact, I can still hear the rattle of my grandfather's wagon, filled with his garden tools, coming down our street.  He and grandma had their own garden, but he would still walk about a mile to our house to help take care of ours too.  They don't make them like my grandpa anymore. 
So many times, we had just a fresh tomato salad for dinner, along with a loaf of Italian bread, hot out of the oven.   No knife ever touched that was just passed around the table so each of us could break off a piece to dip into the juices of that salad!   Let's face it, we thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in one hand. 

My husband and I still do that sometimes, and all those sweet memories come flooding back.  This is my version of it, I add more goodies to ours, sometimes red onions or a bell pepper, but the sentiment is still the same.  You don't have to use cherry tomatoes, either...just cut ripe, whole tomatoes into chunks. 

4 - 5 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 lb fresh imported Italian mozzarella, cut into cubes
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved (or more, if you like)
10 - 15 large fresh basil leaves (to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar for a more intense flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss together the tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar.

Lightly chop basil into pieces and toss into the salad.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately (can be refrigerated to serve a little bit later too).
Serve with fresh, crusty Italian bread. (Of course!)

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  -Psalm 18:2

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