- 337 calories
- 29 grams of fat
- 8 grams of sugar
- 500gm tomatoes
- 100gm mozzarella
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Fresh basil
Caprese salad is one of those dishes I generally wouldn’t try to mess around with.
Seriously, why would you?
Luscious juicy tomatoes, pillow soft buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and a top notch olive oil. It’s a perfect combination. It doesn’t need any fiddling or improvements. Least of all from the likes of me, who can hardly claim to be the foremost expert on Italian cuisine, nor Heston Bloomfield incarnate with the ability to unpack, dismantle and rejig classics into modern works of art.
It is for all intents and purposes a complete dish. Many years of Italian gourmet knowledge and cooking has brought it to this point, why change it further?
Well, I have one teensy problem with the caprese salad and what’s required to make it “perfect”.
The perfect caprese salad
Any Italian will advise you that the perfect caprese salad requires the following:
- The freshest tomatoes you can get your hands on, preferably home grown
- Highest quality buffalo mozzarella, or if you’re lucky enough to find it, melt in your month burrata
- Beautiful basil snipped at the last minute from your bushy basil plant
- Top quality olive oil, the best you can buy
- Sea salt, preferably made from the tears of mermaids (ok, I made that last bit up, but you get the point!)
That’s all well and good, but what if you can’t get great tomatoes? Don’t have a vegetable garden? Can’t grow basil, or any other herb for that matter, to save your life? Can’t afford fancy olive oil? Don’t know what burrata is, let alone have access to a deli that sells the stuff?
Those scenarios apply to a lot of people. I’d even wager, the majority of people.
Even in sunny Sydney where we have arguably some of the best access to fresh produce in the world, many people could still not find (or afford) the required ingredients to make an amazing caprese salad.
So while it is a truly wonderful dish, old friend caprese is in fact a little pretentious.
As I think it would be awfully sad for all of us to miss out on the deliciousness of a caprese salad, I’ve made a few tweaks that will allow you to create one that won’t break the bank and can be cobbled together from ingredients from your local woolies.
Allow me to present…
The Blistered caprese salad
Also known as the perfect caprese salad when you can’t find the perfect ingredients!
The trick to this salad is the roasting of the tomatoes. This step takes ordinary supermarket tomatoes and turns them into rich, flavour filled morsels.
Use whatever tomatoes are on special or you have lying around in the fridge. In my case I went for a mix of cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes.
Chop them up however you like, just don’t go too small as they shrink in the oven. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and herbs. I used fresh thyme because I had some in the fridge I needed to use, but dried oregano, thyme, parsley or an Italian herb mix will work equally well.
Roast them for 20-30 minutes until they are very soft and starting to blacken.
Now set the tomatoes aside to cool as you don’t want the salad to be warm.
While the tomatoes are cooling roughly chop a handful of basil and mix with oil. It’s kind of like a very crude pesto without the blending. If your basil is a little wilted and has seen better days then use up all your basil in the oil. This is a great way of masking tired leaves and encouraging them to impart more flavour in the dish.
If you’ve got a couple of nice small leaves then set these aside to throw on later. This is purely for decoration purposes, but I think it adds a nice touch.
Random tip for storing fresh herbs:
If you’ve got excess basil (or any other fresh herb) you can store them for later use by chopping them and popping in an ice cube tray with a little oil. If you pack the tray tightly you won’t need much oil. Freeze them and once frozen transfer to a snap lock bag to store in the freezer. Then pull them out and throw directly in the pan/pot the next time you need to add some fresh herbs to a dish.
Once the tomatoes are room temperature it all comes together very quickly. Pile on the tomatoes, tear off bite sized chunks of mozzarella and scatter over a couple of extra whole basil leaves for good measure.
Finish it off by spooning over your basil and oil mix then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Now gobble it up quick, perhaps with some fresh sourdough on the side to mop up the delicious juices.
Wonderful as a simple weekend lunch or serve as a starter for some friends.
Throw in a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio as well for good measure and sit back and marvel at your much cheaper, but still tasty, handiwork!
Not exactly the same as the real thing and I’m sure some will cry “abomination” (don’t serve it to your Italian mother-in-law!), but definitely really tasty and that’s the most important thing!
- 500 gm mixed tomatoes
- 100 gm fresh mozzarella
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp dried herbs
- Handful of fresh basil
- sea salt
- Preheat your oven to 150C
- Chop the tomatoes into various sizes
- Place on a roasting tray and drizzle with one tbsp of olive oil
- Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and dried herbs
- Roast for 20-30 minutes until tomatoes are soft and starting to blacken
- Set aside to cool
- Meanwhile roughly chop a handful of basil leaves and mix with the remaining olive oil
- Once tomatoes are cool, assemble on plate
- Tear off bite size chunks of mozzarella, sprinkle with additional whole basil leaves and more sea salt
- Finish by spooning over the olive oil/basil mix and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
- Calories 337
- Carbs (gm) 12
- Fat (gm) 29
- Protein (gm) 13
- Fibre (gm) 3