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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

EAT: Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad (Insalata Caprese)


I've been eating this tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad for years. I made it up myself, but like most recipes it's not original or unique. In fact, it's a popular salad in Italian cuisine, and goes by the name of insalata cuprese. It's really tasty and heart healthy, plus it's a terrific way to use up those tomatoes that are now ripening in the garden.

This year I grew grape tomatoes so I used some of them in the salad, but plum tomatoes also work just fine. Like most of my recipes, the quantities and measurements are somewhat imprecise.

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad (Insalata Cuprese)

3 to 4 sprigs of fresh basil leaves
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Grape or Plum Tomatoes (they're less juicy), sliced
2 to 3 Garlic cloves, crushed
Olive oil
Thyme sprigs for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The salad is made in layers so you can use a regular dinner plate, glass pie plate, or other shallow glass baking dish. The first layer is basil leaves, the second layer is mozzarella, and the third layer is tomatoes. Crush the garlic cloves in a garlic press and sprinkle over the salad. Next, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil. Garnish with sprigs of thyme, basil, or oregano and add salt and pepper to taste.

What's nice about this salad is that you can layer it any way you want. If you want tomatoes on the bottom and basil on the top, no problem. You can also eat the salad straight away (especially in the summer) or let sit at room temperature for several hours (better for winter). You can also cover it and place in the fridge overnight to eat the next day, but take it out an hour or so before serving so that it's room temperature. The reason for this is that the flavors are enhanced at room temperature.

Buon appetito!

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