My favorite apron was given to me by my friend, Chrissy, who I studied abroad with and had many crazy adventures with in southern Italy. She gave me my apron years later as a wedding gift, and the beautiful sun-speckled floral pattern reminds me of the days we spent lazily eating and lounging around on the beaches and piazzas of our little ancient coastal town, Pisciotta. In fact, every time I make Insalate Caprese (literally meaning “from the island of Capri”- which I was also lucky enough to explore!) I’m brought back to those beaches and the glorious sun soaked months we spent there. It’s truly a magical place for me, which is why I love this equally special and simple summertime recipe in which the hardest work you have to do is some slicing. I added the basil oil after my culinary training in an effort to “fancy” it up a bit - but truth be told, a nice extra virgin olive oil is just as good- if not better. Choosing the freshest ingredients is imperative since it’s such a simple straightforward salad.
CAPRESE SALAD WITH BASIL OIL
3 large multi colored heirloom tomatoes (whatever is freshest and ripest at the farmers market), washed and dried
1 pound fresh water packed mozzarella (or mozzarella di bufala if you’re lucky)
¼ cup freshly picked basil leaves, washed and dried
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Basil Oil, recipe follows
Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into ½ inch thick slices. Generously season
with salt on both sides. Taste a tiny bit of mozzarella to see if it needs salt (salt can vary on fresh mozzarella). Season if need be. Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella in a concentric pattern, overlapping and layering each. Tuck the basil leaves in between the layers. Drizzle with the basil oil and season again with salt and pepper.
The freshest mozzarella and most beautiful sun ripened tomatoes along with a hearty helping of salt are the keys to this simple recipe.
1 cup basil leaves, packed
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the basil leaves in a pot of salted boiling water for approximately 10 seconds. Remove with a spider and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, remove and pat dry with paper towels. Add the basil leaves and oil to a blender and blend until smooth. Add a small pinch of salt and a few quick grinds of your peppermill. Pour into a small airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Brianna Beaudry lives in Venice Beach, California, with her husband, Alex, and their pug, Butter. She has worked as the culinary producer on the Food Network hit shows Paula’s Party, Paula’s Home Cooking, Paula’s Best Dishes, and Down Home With the Neelys. Yankee by birth, Californian by circumstance, but Southern at heart, what Brianna loves most is cooking delicious food and making it look pretty. See Brianna beautiful food at briannabeaudry.com.
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