Caprese Salad Recipe. Main Course Variations

Caprese Salad heralds spring as surely and as exuberantly as Forsythia and Daffodils

We all love its intoxicating fragrances and bright Italian Red-White-and-Green Flag colors. In spring and summer the basil and the tomatoes are at their very best, and Caprese Salad is a delightful way to showcase them and the Mediterranean Diet.

The three ingredients that must be present in Caprese Salad are tomatoes, basil and mozarella. Likewise, the trademark ingredient in the dressing is a luscious and very easy balsamic reduction. But I love these flavors so much I just play with them and take them places, often making my Caprese Salad main course: hey it’s your lunch, right? so don’t hesitate to cheat and make it grow, as do I, so it can wear more hats and you can enjoy it more often: Start with the easy basic Caprese Salad, eat it as is with your main course, or in a sandwich, or add a few goodies and make it your main course, gluten-free all the way.

Balsamic reduction is such a treat that it would pay to make a bigger batch and store it in a bottle, so you have it on hand, not only for Caprese Salad but to use as a glaze over grilled fish, poached chicken and other favorites.

Here then is my Basic Caprese Salad Recipe. Scroll down for the variations.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 vine tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, packed, sliced thin into a chiffonade
  • 12 ounces good quality whole-milk mozarella, diced or sliced
  • Sea salt (very little, the cheese is salty) and ground pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Make the balsamic reduction: Bring the vinegar to boil in a small saucepan, and let it cook on a medium high flame, for just a couple minutes, until it thickens to a syrupy consistency. Watch over it so it doesn't burn, stop the cooking as soon as it thickens. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, basil and mozarella in a platter. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the oil, and the balsamic reduction.

Variations:
- Caprese Salad Sandwich: Baguette would be ideal for this: Split your baguette open, and drizzle both sides of your bread with the olive oil and the balsamic reduction. Pile the tomatoes, basil and mozarella. Enjoy right away, or wrap tightly in plastic so as to compress the sandwich, and use a couple hours later as a picnic or brunch buffet treat.

- Main Course Caprese Salad: as pictured above. Please to not stray from the only suggested ingredients, so as to stay in the "Caprese" ingredient family

  • Add thinly shredded romaine or baby kale
  • Throw in some capers and good quality pitted olives
  • Throw in some diced avocado
  • Throw in some sliced roasted red pepper, good quality bottled OK
  • Use heirloom tomatoes, if they happen to be well priced on shopping day
  • Add minced parsley
  • Add minced shallot or sliced scallions
  • Use a stronger cheese such as parmesan, Manchego, blue cheese or Kashkeval
  • Make a Vegan Caprese Salad: Use Silken Extra firm Tofu (I love Mori-Nu Brand) and dice it in the salad, omitting the cheese
  • OK, this is as far as I will go: throw in some chickpeas.

Yield: Serves 4

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