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Video:Insalata Caprese

with Jonathon Stewart

If you've got time to shop for a few basic ingredients and about five minutes for preparation, then you too can put together an amazing Italian appetizer for a few or for many: Insalata Caprese.See Transcript

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Transcript:Insalata Caprese

Hi! I'm Jonathon Stewart for About.com Food, and today, it's all about Insalata Caprese...or "salad in the style of Capri," to you and me. This dish is about as easy as it gets to prepare, and is a perfect appetizer for an intimate dinner, or for a rockin' house party.

Insalata Caprese Ingredients

For today's recipe, here's what you'll need - check it out:
  • 1/2 lb of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 or 3 organic or vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1/2 c. to 1 c. of fresh basil leaves
  • sea salt and ground pepper
  • About 1/4 c. of extra-virgin olive oil

Insalata Caprese Ingredient Hints

A couple notes on the ingredients:

First, make sure you buy the freshest tomatoes and basil you can find, and the best cheese and olive oil you can afford. Ideally, the cheese should be "mozzarella di bufala," but since water buffalo milk is a little tough to come by in the States, a good cow's milk mozz will do just fine as well.

Second, and it pains me to say this, don't improvise on this one. Insalata Caprese is all about highlighting the amazing flavors of these simple ingredients.

Cut your Mozzarella and Tomatoes

Start by bringing your tomatoes and mozzarella to room temperature, then take the cheese out of its packaging and pat dry. Cut your tomatoes and mozzarella into quarter-inch discs - slice the tomatoes latitudinally, and be careful cutting the mozz which can be a little on the slippery side. Be sure to rinse off your cutting board in between, to preserve the color of your cheese.

Tomato Ripeness for Insalata Caprese

Many Italians prefer their tomatoes to be slightly under-ripe, which gives them just a hint of tartness absent in vine-ripened tomatoes. This one's up to you, just know that should you choose to use vinegar, balsamic or otherwise, you're in danger of offending the Caprese purists. You filthy American pig, you.

Arrange the Insalata Caprese

Starting with the tomato, layer in slices of the mozzarella, in any fashion that's most appealing to you and the occasion. Rows, rings, and other configurations are acceptable. There's a little flexibility in the basil as well. You can insert whole leaves in between the slices of cheese and tomato if you like, or simply tear them into smaller pieces and scatter them around the plate. Sprinkle your salad with fresh ground pepper and sea salt, and you're in the home stretch.

Add the Olive Oil

The last thing you should do, and only do just prior to serving, is drizzle your caprese with extra-virgin olive oil. Never let your salad sit in the oil, and definitely make sure it's of top-quality.

Apparently there are some schuysters out there trying to pass off less-expensive hazelnut oil for pristine extra-virgin olive - unfortunately it's a little tough to tell the difference as an overseas consumer. Just stick to the organic food stores and steer clear of shady back-alley olive-oil deals and you should be fine.

Serving Insalata Caprese

You might also choose to garnish your plate with slices of cherry tomatoes for a final touch. This recipe for Insalata Caprese serves about four. Although, this Insalata Caprese is about to serve one.

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