Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Caprese Salad and Appetizers

For a summer snack, there is nothing better than tomatoes from the garden layered with fresh basil and mozzarella paired with a glass of wine and a couple of porch rocking chairs.  I would love to tell you that's what this is, but I would be lying.  Between planting it late (we were a little preoccupied this year) and the drought conditions, our poor garden is just not it's usual perky self. So far, we've had a couple handfuls of yellow cherry tomatoes, but that's it.  Not like last year's overwhelming abundance of tomatoes which I couldn't even look at without feeling sick.  No, these are not my homegrown tomatoes - they are some funny-looking (but delicious-tasting!) black tomatoes from Trader Joes.  But they make a nice salad just the same.

We also make these into appetizers by putting them on crackers (usually we use pita chips or Triscuits).  It makes a nice snack and doesn't require a fork that way.  Last night, I ended up making them both ways because we couldn't decide.

Caprese Salad and Appetizers

-2 fresh tomatoes (any variety)
-8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, part skim
-10-12 fresh basil leaves (for the cracker version, I've also used the refrigerated basil that comes in tubes found in the produce section)
-2 t. balsamic vinegar
-1 T. olive oil, optional
-pinch of salt and pepper
-crackers, if desired


1.  Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Depending on the size of each, you may want to halve or quarter the slices (for the salad, I recommend keeping them whole if they are around the same size).  Lightly salt and pepper the tomatoes.

2.  To make the salad, layer the mozzarella, tomato, and basil (1/2-1 leaf each, depending on size).  If making a large salad, it works well to make it in a ring shape.  This one was just for me, so I did a single row.  Drizzle with olive oil (I usually do this when making a larger salad for dinner or a party, but I didn't this time since it was just a snack.  Honestly, I didn't want the extra calories.) Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar.

3.  For the Caprese crackers, quarter the slices of tomato and mozzarella.  Layer cracker, cheese, tomato, then half a basil leaf.  Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar, if desired, but I usually leave it off these since it makes for a messy finger food.

**Another variation of this recipe is Caprese kabobs.  It works great for parties and it's super easy.  Just buy the mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes, and layer with whole basil leaves on bamboo skewers.  Again, it's probably best to leave off the vinegar for these, but if you're feeling extra ambitious, make a balsamic reduction and serve as a dipping sauce.  (Make the reduction by boiling balsamic vinegar on the stove for about 10-20 minutes until it starts to thicken, stirring frequently.  Allow to cool before serving.)

whatcha cookin' Mama?

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