As there is no smoke without fire, it is impossible to imagine a festive table without a salad. Just a couple of decades ago, most domestic banquets were decorated only with olivier and "herring under a fur coat". Now the situation has changed radically. Both restaurant chefs and housewives try to surprise guests with a variety of recipes. Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese) - a simple, but at the same time elegant and tasty dish. It is a worldwide symbol of Mediterranean cuisine. It seemed to embodied a small piece of paradise, which can be seen on the island of Capri (Capri). Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil are just three simple ingredients that conquered the world with their harmony. What is the secret of the popularity of plain salad, we will discuss in our article.
There are various myths and legends regarding the origin of Caprese salad. The most popular version refers to the period after the Second World War. It is believed that a particularly patriotic mason invented the recipe. He liked to lay out the filling of the sandwich in the color of the Italian tricolor. So, in one of the dinners, he combined basil, mozzarella and tomatoes on soft bread.
However, there is historical evidence that the birth of the Caprese recipe dates back to the 20s of the 20th century. Then the salad appeared on the menu of the Quisisana hotel on the island of Capri.
It was specially prepared for the futurist poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. A dish in the color of the national flag was created to surprise the writer who criticized traditional cuisine. Since then, the salad has become a "regular" in the diet of the famous Italian. Even the King of Egypt Farouk I, who visited Capri in 1951, praised Caprese served as a snack.
Caprese salad can be prepared by anyone who does not even have cooking skills. It is enough to have at hand a few ingredients and a couple of tricks in the head.
So, the components needed for a classic recipe:
- Tomatoes - 400 g;
- Mozzarella Cheese - 350 g;
- Fresh basil - 1 bunch;
- Olive oil - 6 tablespoons;
- Salt to taste.
Wash the tomatoes and remove the stalk. We wash the basil thoroughly under running water and separate the leaves from the stems. We take out the mozzarella from the brine and let it drain.
Cut the tomatoes and mozzarella into slices no more than 1 cm thick. Put the pieces of cheese and vegetables on the plate in turn. Mix olive oil with salt and pour over the "sliced".
We decorate with basil leaves before serving, because, as a rule, they quickly wither.
The acidity of tomatoes is in perfect harmony with the creamy taste of cheese. Basil in this union is responsible for giving a characteristic aroma.
Caprese captivates with its simplicity. But there are a few secrets that you need to know to create the perfect dish.
Tomatoes for Caprese should be fleshy and fragrant. You should never store them in the refrigerator. This makes them more watery and deprives them of a rich taste. Ideal storage - room temperature.
If you come across tomatoes without a pronounced taste, then they should be a little thermally “revive”. To do this, cut them into slices, put on a baking sheet, and, sprinkled with olive oil and garlic, simmer for about 2 hours at a minimum temperature.
In addition, if the tomatoes are cut and sprinkled with salt, leaving it in this form for 30 minutes, then their aroma will be much stronger.
The only cheese for Caprese is mozzarella. On the shelves you can meet her in a vacuum package. But the best option is to buy the product in brine.
How to find out if you are purchasing a quality product? Be guided by the specified ingredients. Mozzarella production takes time. If the composition contains only milk, salt, rennet and enzymes, then you have high-quality cheese. The presence of cottage cheese or citric acid indicates an accelerated cooking process.
Some recipes offer an experiment with a smoked version of the product. But it is better to put it in the salad only part of the total mass of cheese, as the affumicata has a very strong taste.
The ideal choice is mozzarella di buffalo. It has a rich creamy taste and literally melts in your mouth.
Basil - the finishing touch
Fresh basil completes the "tricolor" of Caprese salad. Choose greens with small leaves. Their taste is much more intense. Sweet varieties of plants fit as much as possible into the outline of the aroma of the dish. These include, for example, the Genovese Basilica.
If you doubt the quality of store greenery, then there is no problem growing it in a pot on the windowsill or in the garden. The best time for this is May or June.
However, Caprese is considered a summer salad, when grocery baskets abound with fresh vegetables and herbs.
How to diversify the recipe
For some, the simplicity of Caprese salad is an undoubted advantage of the dish. Others, on the contrary, consider him too "naive and boring." Do not give up positions, because turning it into something new and alluring is surprisingly easy. Just read our tips. Although in some interpretations the food will no longer be classical, but it will not suffer a bit from it.
For a picnic
The location of the slices in a classic salad in the form of a tricolor attracts attention, but it certainly requires time and space for serving. If you want to make a quick meal, or the family is going on a picnic, then just cut the tomatoes and mozzarella into cubes, tear the basil leaves with your hands, send everything to a container and pour olive oil with a little salt.
Do you like Italian salad, but want something unusual? Try to serve it not on plates, but inside tomatoes. To do this, remove the tops of large tomatoes with a knife and scrub the pulp with a spoon. Then cut the pulp and mozzarella into cubes, mix with oil and a pinch of salt and arrange them into prepared vegetable "pots", garnishing with basil leaves. Or do the opposite: make containers of cheese balls and serve salad in them.
Are you not attracted to the milky taste of mozzarella or your body is not tolerant to the components of cow's milk? Replace the creamy ingredient with lactose-free cheese or a solid version with a long exposure (for example: grana padano or pecorino).
Use of sauce
Want to give Caprese salad a little Genoese accent? Cook it with traditional ingredients, but instead of butter, salt and basil leaves, season with Pesto sauce. For a milder taste, garlic can be excluded from the composition of the latter.
The marine version of Caprese involves adding anchovies and capers to tomatoes and mozzarella. Season it with olive oil. At the same time, part of the basil is replaced by oregano. In this interpretation, you can not use salt at all, since all components are quite salty.
In greek style
Ingredients from other countries will help to keep the dish fresh. For example, Greece is famous for its olives, which are in perfect harmony with Italian mozzarella and tomatoes. It will not be superfluous to replace plain olive oil with Greek sauce. To prepare it, mix in a blender: natural yogurt, chopped basil, salt, oil and a little lemon juice. Whipped sauce is cooled in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before being served in a salad.
Winter is not the best season to search for fresh and fragrant tomatoes. Sun-dried tomatoes will help to get out of the situation. Put the tomatoes on the dish, alternating with thinner than classic sliced mozzarella. In this version, basil is not necessary, since the sweets of dried vegetables are enough for a taste idyll. To reach the top of perfection, chopped pistachios must be added to olive oil for seasoning.
Believe your eyes. Caprese can not only eat, but also drink. The preparation of such a cocktail takes a little longer than in the classic version. Tomatoes are blanched, peeled and whipped with a blender along with finely chopped celery and garlic. The tomato mixture is spread in glasses and decorated with mozzarella cubes, slices of cucumber, salted and sprinkled with olive oil. The final detail is a couple of basil leaves.
For portioned serving, bowls or wide glasses are best suited. Salad laid out in layers looks more aesthetically pleasing. At the bottom put bread croutons, then cheese and tomatoes. Seasoned with olive oil or pesto sauce. At the end, add a few pine nuts and basil.
Caprese-style bruschetta is great for a barbecue with friends. It is important to use white bread. Slices are dried in a pan, sprinkled with oil and lightly rubbed with garlic. Then put a couple of slices of cheese and tomato. Seasoned with such a sandwich with salt and finely chopped basil.
Salad from the island of Capri - an excellent option for canapes. Small mozzarella balls together with cherry tomatoes and basil feel great on a skewer. Seasoning the dish in this form is quite difficult, so it can be enriched with slices of eggplant, baked on the grill and pre-sprinkled with oil.
The berry version of Caprese is more a dessert than a salad. In it, tomatoes are replaced with strawberries, and traditional mozzarella is replaced with cheese Fiordilatte. The last is cut into cubes the size of a berry. For complete harmony of taste, the dish is sprinkled with chopped pistachios.
With the start of cool rainy days, there is a desire to switch to more high-calorie foods. In addition to traditional ingredients, the autumn variation of food includes slices of pear and slices of thinly sliced ham.
For those who like citrus fruits, there is an original, more tart version of the salad. In it, tomatoes are replaced with peeled slices of grapefruit or red orange. As in the classics, they dress the dish with olive oil. In addition to basil, mint leaves fit perfectly into such a harmony of taste.
Caprese with cereals is usually served as a fresh snack or side dish. Cooked cereals (barley, couscous or bulgur) are spread on the dish. Traditional ingredients are diced. They will go in a second layer. Basil leaves and olive oil complete the composition.
To prepare a healthy, and besides a tasty and satisfying salad, you need to take only one additional ingredient. Tuna in oil or in its own juice fits perfectly into the outline of Caprese. Cheese, tomatoes and fish are cut into cubes, mixed. Season the dish with oil, preferably extra virgin, and oregano.
Maximum protein option
Caprese made with mozzarella is already a good source of protein. However, if you want, you can make it even more protein. Slices of cheese, tomatoes and thinly sliced bresola are laid out on the "pillow" of arugula. The salad is flavored with a small amount of olive oil and sprinkled with lemon juice.
Caprese salad is a traditional Italian appetizer, as well as prosciutto with figs. Two classics, combined into one whole, give birth to an unsurpassed dish for real gourmets. For this, the usual alternation of mozzarella-tomato is diluted with fig slices no more than 1 cm thick. Decorate with ham and sprinkle with oil.
Bit of exotic
Do you like exotic? Then try adding thin slices of avocado to a classic salad. You will certainly be fascinated by this interpretation. Another option is to season the guacamole dish. For its preparation, pulp of avocado pulp is mashed along with tomatoes (without skin and pits), onions, garlic and lime juice. The resulting mixture is salted, pepper and allowed to infuse before combining with Caprese.
Calorie content and beneficial properties
The classic version of Caprese is a fairly light dish. Its calorie content per 100 g is only 177 kcalwhich consist of:
- Proteins - 10.5 g;
- Fats - 13.7 g;
- Carbohydrates - 3.5 g.
The main value of the salad is that all the components used in it are not thermally processed. Consequently, the most important substances — vitamins — are preserved unchanged.
Tomatoes are rich in vitamins such as C, A, E, K, folic acid. They have a lot of potassium, contributing to the normal functioning of the heart. A huge plus of tomatoes is a high content of an antioxidant called lycopene. It fights free radicals, preventing the onset of certain forms of cancer. Also, lycopene has anti-inflammatory properties, improving the condition of blood vessels.
Mozzarella is an excellent source of protein and calcium, necessary for the health of teeth, nails and skin. Compared to other types of cheese, it includes less fat.
Olive oil is famous for its high content: oleic acid, which normalizes metabolic processes; Omega-9 fatty acids with anti-cancer properties; linoleic acid involved in tissue regeneration processes.
Basil promotes proper digestion, eliminates edema and enhances the protective functions of the body.
The undoubted advantages of salad ingredients make it an excellent dish not only for the regular menu, but also for the diet of people who adhere to the rules of a healthy diet.
So all the secrets of the islet salad have been revealed. Like it or not, everyone is obliged to cook Caprese at least once. Relax in Italian, love in Russian, cook as you see fit, and remember: "The words of truth are simple, like a Caprese salad recipe!"