September 23, 2008
Why is it that the combination tomato-basil-mozzarella is so recurrent in Italian cuisine? Because it’s like the perfect abstract of the Italian approach: simplicity tastes awesome! You can find this combination cold – as in a traditional caprese salad – or hot – as in a traditional pizza margherita. Hot or cold, it always recalls Campania and the Neapolitan love for tomatoes. And with such a simple combination, you’ll never forget another lesson: Italian cuisine calls for the best ingredients. Use finest and sweetest fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh and creamy mozzarella di bufala campana, sweet small-leaved basil and high quality Italian extra-virgin olive oil and you’ll taste a piece of heaven. Use bad ingredients, and you’ll be condemned to taste plain mediocrity.
An excellent way to make a twist on caprese salad, is by preparing my crostini capresi.
1 loaf of a nice bread, like a basil and parmigiano sourdough bread
Ripe grape and cherry tomatoes, different colors and sizes
Fresh mozzarella di bufala campana cheese
1 garlic clove
Slice the bread into ½ - 1/3 inch slices. To make your Italian toasts (called crostini), drizzle the slices with a nice touch of olive oil and grill or bake until the bread turns nice and golden brown (about 8 minutes in a 400F oven – I used my Panini grill for about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, quarter the tomatoes, cut the mozzarella cheese into cubes, and mix them both with some basil leaves. Add a nice amount of olive oil, salt and pepper to this caprese salad. When the bread is ready, rub the garlic on the bread. Put the crostini on a serving plate and then put the caprese salad on top. With a fork (or your hand), slightly crush the tomatoes over the crostini: we want the crostini to absorb the tomato juices and the olive oil. Enjoy!