A caprese salad is the epitome of freshness, of summer, of simplicity and, at the same time, of intense aromas and flavours. Here are the best ingredients for preparing it.
A simple recipe
This recipe has very few essential ingredients and is easy to prepare: a good tomato, a mozzarella cheese, a little Evo oil and a few fresh sweet basil leaves. Add a few pieces of toasted bread and your guests will be satisfied.
This must be absolutely of the best quality. The classic recipe calls for mozzarella made of cow milk, but you can choose to serve mozzarella of buffalo milk, which is more flavourful. In either case, freshness is mandatory! You can pat the slices with kitchen paper to absorb excess whey. Mozzarella, especially that made of buffalo milk, should be conserved at room temperature. Italian gastronomy offers numerous products of exceptional quality. Here are two examples.
Mozzarella TSG (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed). The place of origin is the Campania Region, but the TSG protocol allows for production throughout the territory of the European Union, strictly according to the original recipe of Campania. It is a fresh, fatty pulled-curd cheese obtained from the coagulation of cow milk with the addition of veal rennet. The curd of the cheese in production is immersed in water heated to 95 °C to ferment and melt it. The cheese mass thus obtained is then lopped off (mozzato) into portions that are given various forms, usually plump balls or braids. Although it has no crust, mozzarella does have a thin white, smooth external skin. When cut, it releases whey and reveals an internal structure in layers like an onion; however, the layers gradually melt together with time.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) A fatty, pulled-curd cheese obtained from fresh buffalo milk. The curds of the cheese are hand-pulled in boiling water until threads form, then the portions are lopped off (mozzato) either mechanically or by hand. In addition to the classic round form, there are others: braids, small balls, bite-size balls, cherry-size balls, pearls, knots and egg-shapes). The crust is very thin and porcelain white. The cheese is white and slightly elastic for a few hours after production, then it becomes more compact. Smoking is a legitimate variation.
The tomato must be mature and crisp; again, excess liquid should be drawn off. The slices should be the same size as the mozzarella. Here are some particularly adapted varieties.
Oxheart tomato A fruit of the New World, this variety was brought to Europe about 1500. The form is irregular and fruits can weigh up to 500 grams. The skin is thin and smooth, the pulp is flavourful, not too rich in water and with very few seeds.
Tomato Pachino PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). Of Sicilian origin, this protocol protects four types of tomatoes: smooth round tomatoes, dark green with strong flavour; grape bunch tomatoes with smooth round fruits, bright green or red; ribbed tomatoes, large fruits, brilliant dark green; and cherry tomatoes on a long alternate bunch with small round fruits, intense colour and firm texture of the pulp.
San Marzano Tomato. This tomato, originally from the Campania region, is distinguished by a slightly sweet and sour flavour and an oblong shape, intense red colour, few seeds and fibre, and bright red skin that is easy to peel.
An indispensable ingredient and decorative component. Tear by hand and add to the dish just before serving because it tends to wilt and darken quickly.
Genoese basil PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). This is one of the oldest and most typical cultivations of Liguria characterized by medium-small, slightly oval and convex leaves of a light green colour. It has a particularly delicate aroma.
Extra virgin olive oil
Without exaggerating, pour a thin stream over the mozzarella and tomatoes. A delicate, fruity oil will be best.
Cilento PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). Oil from Campania of a straw yellow colour; often limpid, occasionally cloudy. The olfactive examination reveals light fruity sensations, with possible notes of apple and green leaf. It is a product that harmonizes cutting edge production technology with millenarian tradition.
Riviera Ligure PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). This extra virgin olive oil comes, in limited quantities, from western Liguria where taggiasca olives have always been cultivated. The flavour is delicate and decidedly sweet, slightly fruity and has a characteristic after-taste of almond and artichoke. It is perfect for enriching salads, first courses and vegetables.
Terre Tarentine PDO (Protected Designation of Origin). Oil from Apulia, it has a fruity flavour with sensations of bitterness and spicyness. The colour is yellow tinged with green.
Salt and pepper
Add salt only to the tomatoes, not the mozzarella, and a little pepper if you wish.
Oregano can be used together with basil or to substitute it. It has a strong, penetrating and unmistakeable aroma. It occupies an important role in gastronomy due to its digestive and aromatic properties, especially in the seasoning of typical dishes of the Mediterranean cuisine. Its leaves can also be used to dress salads and meats.
How Much Do You Know…?
Sugar, water, fruit, pulp, liquid or solid? The raw tomato, devoured in the garden when freshly picked is a horn of abundance of simple sensations, a radiating rush in one’s mouth that brings with it every pleasure. The resistance of the skin—slightly taut, just enough the luscious yield of the tissues, their seed filled liqueur oozing to the corners of one’s lips, and that one wipes away without any fear of staining one’s fingers, this plump little globe unleashing a flood of nature inside us: a tomato, an adventure (Muriel Barbery).