After all the madness you’ve been seeing around here, I’m sure you can get behind me when I say that sometimes I just want simplicity: a crispy slice of toast, a perfect apple, an exquisite salad, simply dressed. In this month of excess, I couldn’t quite dial things back that far, but I got as close as I could reasonably manage while still sticking to the theme: I grilled a caprese salad.
Insalata Caprese is a dish from the Campania region in southwestern Italy–its very name means “salad in the style of Capri;” fitting, since it makes me want to go sit in the sun somewhere with cropped trousers and a nice glass of prosecco. It is an ode to simplicity: three basic ingredients combined to pack a serious flavor wallop: fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and fresh basil. Dress is with a little olive oil, and you’re laughing. Smash it between two slices of sourdough and fry it in butter, you’re laughing even more. It was with this mentality that I tackled dinner the other night.
In addition to my craving for simplicity, I was guided by a more practical force–the contents of my refrigerator. As luck would have it, I had on hand a lovely fresh mozzarella, some leftover pesto (whose inclusion would probably make some purists’ heads explode), and some halfway decent tomatoes. So, while I would love to claim complete credit for my inspired idea, I can’t: necessity was, once again, the mother of invention. And for a necessity, what-do-i-have-on-hand kind of meal, it was AWESOME. Will it be better when I can make it with summer-ripe tomatoes and fresh basil from the pot I’m slowly coaxing in to life? Probably. I’ll be sure to let you know.
P.S. Yes, I know, only one photo. I’m moving, cut me some slack.
Use the best ingredients you can find for this–I promise it’s worth it.
8oz fresh mozzarella, shredded and divided
2-3 tomatoes, seeded and sliced (I prefer Roma or plum tomatoes–lots of meat, not too many seeds, which keeps the sandwich from turning into a soggy mess)
2 tbsp pesto (or, if you have it, a few leaves of fresh basil, chiffonaded)
4 slices bread
- Heat a heavy saucepan (I like cast iron) over medium heat. Butter the bread slices on one side. On two of the slices, spread the unbuttered side with pesto.
- Place two slices of bread butter side down (pesto side up) in the skillet. Take half of the cheese and spread it evenly over the two slices in the skillet. Then, place half the tomatoes in a thin layer on each slice. Distribute the remaining half of the cheese over the top of the apples–at this point you should have bread-pesto-cheese-tomato-cheese.
- Place the remaining pieces of bread on the tops of the sandwiches–butter side up. Press down with your spatula to really mash everything together. Cover loosely and cook for five minutes.
- After five minutes, uncover and carefully flip the sandwich. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, until it is oozing and amazing. Serve with roasted asparagus or some other delightful vegetable. Makes 2 sandwiches.
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