Almost all year round Southern California has enviable weather…70 degree Decembers, mellow falls and springs and even in the summer its not usually that bad. But this year we have gotten extremely rare high humidity that could compete with my youthful North Carolina summers and high 90s to triple digit heat accompanying it. In fact, yesterday we hit 110 degrees at my place and today we volleyed back and forth between 102 and 104. Its been a fun, NOT, experience. That said, on hot days like this the last two things I can imagine doing is slaving away at a hot stove or in the outside heat and sun grilling. Give me fresh, give me cold, give me take out…anything but hot cooking. I love eating salads and fresh fruit at this time of the year. And my all time favorite is a traditional Caprese salad.
Not only is it super simple but its also pretty accessible in terms of ingredients. It can be served as a meal unto itself or as a side to pretty much any meal. You can serve it with sliced ingredients or with cherry sized ball form ingredients, either way its yummy. I prefer to serve it sliced as it feels more hearty that way and well I think it looks prettier.
Fresh Tomatoes – beefsteak or large on the vine tomatoes are great but you can also do cherry or grape tomatoes (one tomato per person)
Fresh Mozzarella – there is a HUGE flavor difference and texture difference between the store block of mozzarella and fresh mozzarella. Look for the one that still has water/liquid in it. This can be in a log or as little balls. I recommend Galbani (I used for the one I made in the pictures) or Bel Gioioso brands (no compensation by companies, just my preference). Make sure to have enough for 3 to 4 slices about 1/4 inch per slice per person.
Fresh Basil – Many stores are carrying planted basil as well as fresh herb bundles. You want a bright green leaf. (4 leaves per person)
Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Drizzle – a hearty and robust balsamic vinegar is best and reducing turns it sweeter, fuller, more complex and less acidic flavor.
1. Start by pouring 1/2 to 1 cup of balsamic vinegar in a sauté pan over medium heat. Continue to stir until vinegar reaches almost syrup consistency. It will take about 30 minutes to fully reduce. Let cool. It will thicken as it cools.
2. Slice mozzarella and tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick.
3. Wash basil and dry. Then remove 4 large leaves for each person, snipping the step at the base of the leaf.
4. On a plate, alternate and layer tomato slice, then mozzarella slice, then fresh basil leaf. Continue until you have 3 to 4 of each on a plate.
5. When ready to serve and reduction has cooled, using a spoon drizzle the balsamic vinegar reduction over the top of the alternating slices.
6. Serve. Eat. And say Yum!