Saturday, February 9, 2013

Simply the Best: Insalata di Caprese

It almost feels like cheating to post a "recipe" for something so ridiculously simple, but it wouldn't hurt to be reminded once in a while of how good simple can be.

I served this dish with some basil pesto on the side and not counting the shopping, the whole thing took about five minutes to prepare (maybe 10 if like me, you stop in between steps to send a bunch of text messages).

The dish makes a great starter when you're preparing something a little more elaborate for dinner. OR... you could add some cold cuts, olives and nuts to the mix, maybe throw in a hard cheese, some great bread and wine and call it a day. Or more accurately, a night.  A REALLY good night.

Because great food, like great relationships, jobs and everything else in life, really shouldn't require so much effort. Or if they do, then you should at least be passionate enough about it and/or enjoy the process so much that it doesn't FEEL like effort.

And the secret to such simple recipes and perhaps, even to life, is to surround yourself with the highest quality ingredients, company and conversation that you can find.  Check me out, dispensing secrets to life. Heh. Real Swami, Toy Kitchen. And so, grasshoppers, without further ado, here's my recipe for a Caprese salad and a wonderful evening:

Insalata di Caprese 
Serves 6

250 grams mozzarella di bufala
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (Use less or more as you see fit. I, myself, belong to Camp More.)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Basil pesto (optional)

Slice cheese and arrange on plate. Drizzle with olive oil until pretty pools of green begin to appear. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and happy thoughts. Serve.

Try to get the best ingredients you can afford and find. I snagged my cheese at Santi's, which was the closest and most convenient option for me. Other great local choices would be the artisanal cheeses made by Malagos Farmhouse or Rizal Dairy.

Traditionally, the dish calls for larger beefsteak tomatoes, but the ones I saw were pale and unappetizing. I went with the much riper cherry tomatoes instead, and I wasn't a bit sorry.

I also broke out the Laudemio olive oil and fleur de sel, which is so worth it for dishes like these when you're using such few ingredients. And speaking of breaking, I also broke with tradition by opting to serve some pesto on the side instead of basil leaves with the dish. You can make your own or get store-bought (insert shameless plug here). You can also add some good balsamic vinegar instead. Or as well as. Your cheese, your call.

Finally, serve to people you love (or at least like a whole lot) with your bread and wine, and enjoy. The Italians got it right. La dolce vita, indeed.

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