Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella

It has been done to death. Caprese salad that is. But there’s a reason it appears on nearly every restaurant menu come summertime: It’s so unbelievably good. I promise I’m not trying to bore you. I just have have a few things to add, in an effort, I hope, to maximize your tomato-eating experience this summer.

1. Tomatoes. I’m sort of stating the obvious here, but likely the tomatoes you pick up at your local farmers’ market will be superior to store-bought varieties. This past Sunday at the San Clemente farmers’ market, I learned from one of the Carlsbad farmers that the darker tomatoes tend to be sweeter. The man wasn’t lying. The tomato pictured in the upper left corner of this photo was the sweetest and tastiest of the bunch. It reminded me of a variety I discovered last summer, back in Philadelphia, called Black Prince, which I loved for the same reasons.

2. Fresh basil. Nothing like it. So fragrant. So sweet.

3. Mozzarella. I hate to be a snob, but buffalo mozzarella is so good, and there’s really nothing like the imported Italian varieties. However, as we are all so aware of our food miles these days, we can make smarter choices. I just discovered this Bubulus Bubalis mozzarella, which is made in Gardena (near L.A.) from the milk of water buffalo grazing in Northern California, if I understood the story correctly. Anyway, it is exceptional. And for Philadelphians, Claudio’s mozzarella is wonderful. (For all of you in between CA and PA, I wish I could give you more direction. Alas, my knowledge extends only to two places.)

4. Salt. Invest in a small tub of nice salt, like this one pictured below. I use it only on special occasions, like when I’m salting tomatoes or salting avocados or salting butter spread onto bread. So, basically I use it every day. My sister found this little tub in France earlier this summer but any variety of nice sea salt will do. (If you can’t resist this precious container, you can buy it from Salt Works.) And don’t be afraid to give the tomatoes a real sprinkling — I swear it makes them sweeter not saltier. Really.

5. Olive Oil. With good tomatoes, a drizzling of extra-virgin olive oil is the only dressing needed. I have yet to add a splash of vinegar to my tomato salads this summer. Though a splash certainly wouldn’t hurt. And it does make a nice little sauce to soak bread in.

6. Preparation. Try cutting your tomatoes into irregular shapes as opposed to thin slices. They look prettier; they’re easier to eat; and the tomatoes taste better, too. Really, they do. Cut the mozzarella the same way. And when you arrange it all on a platter, don’t toss it around to much. Just sprinkle the tomatoes and cheese with salt; tear basil leaves over the top; drizzle it with oil; and serve.



Two very hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, one heirloom tomato and a few very tired sprigs of basil picked from my garden. Yay, the tomatoes are turning red!

I am particularly enjoying the dark red heirloom tomatoes. They are sweet and delicious. I found these along with Bubulus Bubalis mozzarella at the Santa Monica farmers’ market this past Wednesday.


05. August 2008 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Eating Locally, Salads, Side dishes, Vegetarian | 8 comments


Comments (8)

  1. mmm… precisely why summer is so scrumptious! I have read similar kudos for the black prince tomatoes (I was going to grow them this summer, but the tomato guy at our farmer’s market sold out of almost every variety I wanted two sat. in a row so I went for a yellow tomato instead). My tomatoes are ripening too! It is time for the caprese salad next week!
    Wonderful breakdown of the ingredients!

  2. I just love summery tomatoes. That pic on top is absolutely mouthwateringly beautiful.

    I had a fabulous Caprese salad the other day with Chino Farm’s tomatoes.

    Have you been down to San Diego’s Little Italy yet to hunt for neat things like Buffalo Mozzarella?

  3. Great post! I like to cut my tomato salads in irregular pieces too!

  4. Those tomatoes look amazing, so meaty and deep red. But where’s the pic of the finished salad?! :)

  5. My experience exactly. As I head to the garden to get the makings for lunch, I intuitively go to the darkest tomatoes. And feel almost as if I am taking part in one of Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire moments.

  6. The best recipes

  7. Your knowledge of the dark tomatoes is brand new, I was always afraid to try them. Thank You!

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