We have our first tomatoes of the season coming in, and you know what that means? One of my favorite Summertime treats: caprese salad. With simple fresh ingredients and limited cooking, the secret to the perfect caprese salad lies in the quality of ingredients. So below I’ve got not just how to put together a caprese salad, but what makes for the best tomato, the best mozzarella, and how to create a balsamic reduction.
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Balsamic vinegar
- Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
What makes the perfect mozzarella?
For fresh mozzarella (the type you will need for a caprese salad) there are two dimensions: Flavor and texture. It goes without saying the the fattier the mozzarella (the higher fat content/percentage in the milk used for making it), the stronger the flavor. Check the fat content on the package to find the one that works best for you. Texture change as the cheese ages. The fresher/newer the cheese, the firmer and more elastic it is. This if the type of cheese that you will likely want for a caprese salad.
What makes the perfect tomato?
For a caprese salad, you will want a firm tomato with tender unblemished skin (as you will not be peeling them). Especially good tomatoes will feel heavy for their size and will be filled with juice when you cut into them. If you are growing them yourself, pick them off the vine just as their color is starting to change from orange to red. Keep them indoors out from direct sunlight (but not in the fridge) for 4-5 days. This will help them develop but not overripen and draw out more flavor.
How do you create a balsamic reduction?
A balsamic reduction will intensify the complex flavor of the balsamic to a state of become almost a glaze or sauce on its own. To create a balsamic reduction, pour 1 cup of balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once hot, drop the temperature down to low and let it reduce down to half its original size (about 10-15 minutes), stirring consistently and watching it carefully. Burning it is an easy task, so keep the overhead fan on with all that vinegar in the air and watch it carefully. You will know that it’s done when it coats the spoon when you take it out but the reduction is still pourable. If you end up going too far and it’s not pourable, stir in a little water and cook back down to the desired point. Use on your caprese salad, or as a drizzle over beef. If you love balsamic, check out the balsamic black pepper strawberry jam recipe here!
Directions for the Caprese Salad:
- Make your balsamic reduction (see above) and let cool down to room temperature.
- Cut your tomatoes into thick slices.
- Cut your mozzarella into slices of the same thickness as the tomatoes.
- Lay your slices of cheese and tomato interchanged on a plate, layering leaves of basil in between.
- Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the salad, sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper to taste.