Either way, you need an easy recipe. Remember the Caprese Salad a couple of weeks ago? This could qualify as a Deconstructed Caprese Salad. It uses the same ingredients, good local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, and salt.
But instead of slicing and layering, you’re going to chop things into bite size pieces and gently toss them together. This is actually going to help you out in the tomato department because a lot of those homegrown and farm grown heirlooms don’t make beautiful round slices like the Italians love to show case. They’re bumpy tomatoes, they’re ridged, they often have blemishes from the sun or some bug that escaped the farmer’s watchful eye. They’re tasty as all get out but they aren’t always ‘beautiful’ in the standard sense.
If you can’t get fresh tomatoes from your farmer’s market or your garden, you really need to rethink making this salad. It won’t taste as wonderful without them. Chop up a couple of large tomatoes and halfway fill a small salad bowl. The picture shown was three large tomatoes and the bowl is the biggest one in the house… might be a little large for your get together.
Basil can be store bought or come from your favorite plant in the garden. If you grow your own, remember to pinch of some of the middle leaves to encourage your basil to bush out and grow bigger and bolder for your late summer pesto. Take a good handful and either chop or finely slice the leaves. Toss them into the bowl with your tomatoes.
For this salad, I like to use the small mozzarella balls and cut them in half. I also like to use the marinated ones but that isn’t necessary. I used two containers for my huge salad but I think one container to two good size tomatoes would be a good ratio.
Olive oil has to be good quality… I was hoping to use the left over oil from the mozzarella but Trader Joe’s unfortunately cuts their olive oil with canola and it tasted pretty neutral. Fine for cooking so I saved it to use later. But not great for this salad. Feel free to grab your special, for salads only, bottle of olive oil. You know, the one that smells green and fresh when you open the bottle. Use your nose if need to be sure. Bad olive oil can ruin a salad like this. Then take that good oil and give the salad a good drizzle.
Season the whole salad with a good teaspoon or so of sea salt. Tomatoes love salt and the combination is a good one. You should be able to taste tomato that is a little bolder and brighter… you shouldn’t taste salt.Voila! You have a simple Deconstructed Caprese Salad!
Not exciting enough? Need a little more kick?
Take a clove or two of garlic (I can highly recommend the garlic from my sister’s garden but I’m afraid you won’t find that in the market). Place it in a mortar with some of the salt you plan on using in the salad. Take that pestle and grind away. You want to make a paste of salt and garlic. Add that to the tomatoes before anything else. The garlic will infuse the entire dish.
Like a little tang? Feel free to toss in a tablespoon of either red wine vinegar (tart) or balsamic (sweet tart). I think these are a little overkill but when your salad is being served with bbq-ed meats rather than as an appetizer, it might need a little extra something. I highly recommend going with the vinegar if you’ve chosen to use a more average tomato. But I’ll let you be the judge of that.
And, last word on this, assemble this salad right before hand and try not to refrigerate it. Tomatoes change flavor once they’ve been in the refrigerator for too long. The nice thing? You can prep all the ingredients before hand and just toss them together right before the meal begins.