Tomatoes, Mozzarella … And Peaches? You Bet: Easy Does It
You’ve heard it before — Italian food is all about great quality ingredients, and it starts at the market (or in the garden). A perfect example is Insalata Caprese, that simple combination of the most delicious tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and bright, fresh basil — with nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. (For the record, Italians would never add vinegar.)
I worked in Florence after college as “kitchen help” for a rather snobby family, and the first thing you learn is that is that you never touch the fruit or vegetables in an open-air market. You speak with the vendors, and they then pick everything for you. Of course, if you have a special relationship with the vendor, she will pick out the best fruit and vegetables — from the freshest summer tomatoes on down the the best homemade mozzarella, made just that morning, maybe even by her!
The great thing about this combination of tomato and mozzarella with basil is how versatile it truly is. Think of how those ingredients feature in so many other great dishes, like pizza Margherita, pasta salad, antipasto skewers, bruschetta — even a grilled cheese sandwich.
Since I’m not in Italy at the moment, I have no qualms about messing with my Caprese. Chicken Caprese, anyone? Or Three-Bean Salad Caprese? How about adding some slices of cucumber? Grilled zucchini or eggplant? Avocado? Mangoes? Strawberries? Or how about fresh peaches? (See recipe below.)
Oh yeah. With or without tomato, there are plenty of fruits and summer vegetables that pair beautifully with slices of mild and creamy mozzarella and basil. Of course you could switch up the basil too if you prefer lemon basil, Thai basil, cinnamon basil, or purple basil. It’s hard to go wrong. And if you want to add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, I won’t tell the Italians.
Peach Caprese Salad
2 – 3 large ripe peaches;
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, preferably packed in water;
1 bunch fresh basil leaves;
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling;
Kosher salt and pepper.
Cut peaches in half and remove pits. Slice peaches and mozzarella into 1/4 inch slices. (You may need to cut the peach slices in half to fit with the mozzarella slices.) On a large platter, layer alternating slices of peaches and mozzarella, tucking a basil leaf between each. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Feel free to experiment with these recipes for tomato-mozzarella Caprese Salad!