Saturday, June 23, 2012

Of Basil and Tomatoes

I was thinking today. Beside the fact that I'm still rather pissed that I can't figure out a way to grow mozzarella on a vine in my garden...

Summer is probably the season that I most look forward to Eating in.

The fresh fruits. Cherries in particular. Little nuggets of amazingness. I could literally eat my weight in them.

Fresh greens, from mustard to sweet spinach. Just walk out your door, mow your lawn and you have salad!

I love raw vegetables, or just slightly cooked...sauted, or steamed. And this time of year is when things are just starting to come alive. I so look forward to fresh peas, bush beans, and corn...oh the sweet corn. Raw on the cob! Or steamed with just the right amount of butter and salt. Lord help the person that tells me I have high blood pressure...

But the thing I look forward to the most...the thing that I covet...The One Dish I will NOT sacrifice, no matter how broke, homeless, or infested with zombies this world may get?

Caprese Salad. So simple. Six ingredients. That's it. But each ingredient is equally important. There is such a balance...that only the freshest will do. I will not eat this dish in the winter. As it will be crap. Tomatoes aren't in season in the winter. But Summer. There are dozens if not hundreds of varieties to play with.
So very hungry...

Personally, I love Brandywine. There's something remarkably fruity, yet very rich about this heirloom breed of tomato. And you have to get local mozzarella. Which, in Maine, is simple. Fresh fresh fresh. I try to pull my Basil right before I use it's still warm from the garden. People don't seem to understand that when they keep herbs, like basil in the fridge they lose their potency. I have both black and Italian basil this year. But to be honest, I much prefer the Italian for Caprese.

Plating is very important for this type of salad. Traditionally Caprese salad is sliced tomato with sliced mozzarella, and chiffonade of basil. Layered. Visually it's stunning. But it also serves a purpose. You get every flavor in every mouthful. And if the chef has done her job and sliced things properly...the tomato and mozz to the proper thickness...nothing will overwhelm. Simple. Yet not so much.

Salt must be kosher. It has to stand up to the juiciness of the tomatoes, as well as the blandness of the mozz. Pepper will always be fresh ground. Olive Oil is personal preference. Myself, I go for the peppery ones. Something with a little backbone. And Vinegar. If you put vinegar on this salad. I would fire you. Gone. What do you need vinegar for? There's acid in the tomatoes. The salt will bring it out, the oil will blend, the basil will mellow and you have the perfect vinaigrette! Perfection!

Six ingredients. Probably one of the healthiest meals out there. Those Italians...they know how to eat.

Seriously. Why can't I grow mozzarella on some vine in my garden?

So...what seasonal dish are you willing to fight zombie infestation for?


  1. when did you say you were inviting me over for dinner again? I think I could live on that salad...


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