This post isn't so much a recipe than a reminder: get thyself to a farmers market, asap! Heirloom tomatoes are at their peak... and when they're gone, well... it's a long, bland tomato road ahead.
The uses for heirloom tomatoes are endless, but it's kind of a no-brainer to break out a simple Caprese salad recipe to use up all those Brandywines, Green Zebras and Cherokee Purples. There's not much more to it than this:
- Chopped or sliced fresh tomatoes
- Fresh basil (whole leaves or chopped)
- Fresh whole milk mozzerella cheese
- A bit of really good fruity olive oil (I have been using a local Napa Valley olive oil, Atlas Peak; I particularly like their Arbequina varietal)
- Fresh cracked sea salt
Throw everything in a bowl or serving platter, give it a bit of time for the flavors to meld, and you've got a versatile, scrumptious dish. In fact, I can eat variations on Caprese a dozen ways til Sunday! Here's how:
- Plain old Caprese salad (pictured).
- Turn a Caprese salad into a panzanella salad by adding hunks of toasted bread, capers, red onions and chopped red bell pepper.
- Bruschetta topping - spoon the Caprese onto grilled baguette slabs for an amazing appetizer.
- Margherita pizza - same ingredients put atop the pizza dough and red sauce of your choice.
- Antipasto sandwich - hollow out a small loaf of French or Sourdough bread, load it with the Caprese salad (drained), plus chopped olives (green, black, Kalamats - whatever you like), chopped pepperoncini and chopped salami; wrap the sandwich in plastic wrap and let sit tight in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight to let the flavors and juices soak into the bread (this is an excellent variation to try with day-old or nearly stale bread... the juices soften it right up).
- Caprese tart - take my recipe for Tomato, Herb and Cheese Tart and substitute mozzerrella for the chevre.
- Caprese pasta - toss the ingredients into a big bowl of the pasta of your choice (I like bow tie or angel hair); top with grilled shrimp.
- Chicken Caprese Burger, a la the Leftover Queen.
- Stuffed portobello mushrooms - grill portobellow mushrooms; stuff the caps with the Caprese salad and allow the cheese to melt. You could do the same and stuff any manner of other veggies as well: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, etc.
- Caprese polenta - serve the tomato salad over a base of creamy polenta; drizzle with a balsamic reduction.
- Caprese skewers: load up cocktail skewers with the Caprese ingredients (find those great orange Sun Gold cherry tomatoes) for another great appetizer.
- Caprese-style Gazpacho - make a refreshing, cool summer soup by blending the Caprese salad ingredients with chopped cucumbers, a couple slices of crusty French bread, pressed garlic and red wine vinegar.