Caprese is a simple, delicious Italian salad. It is pronounced: kah-PRAY-zeh.
Caprese is one of my favorite summer dishes, and it’s best enjoyed when the ingredients are in season. What does that mean – “in season”?
When you eat foods that are in season, that means you are eating food that is naturally growing and being harvested at the time you’re eating it. For instance, tomatoes are harvested throughout the summer, so that is the best time to eat them. Although you may still see tomatoes in the store in wintertime, they are not in season at that time. The reason they don’t taste great is because they must be shipped from a place where they ARE in season, and since they must be transported by truck, they have to be picked before they are fully ripe. So the tomatoes you eat in the winter are not-fully-ripe fruits that have been sitting in boxes from the moment they came from the greenhouse — or even a different continent* — and have been through a long road-trip to get to you.
On the other hand, if you and your parents can go to a farmers market in the summertime, where the farmers pick the fruit they sell very close to when you buy it and bring it home, you will likely get better tasting produce that is in-season and ripe. Freshly picked summer tomatoes and basil will make the very best caprese.
*About food from different continents: For instance, in the autumn here in California, I often see spring fruits — like blueberries — at the store that have been shipped from Chile, which is in South America. The seasons in the northern hemisphere are opposite of the southern hemisphere. When it is winter here, it is summer in Chile; in fall here, it is spring in the southern hemisphere. Do you have a globe? Can you see how far away Chile is? Imagine the long drive those blueberries had to make! I wonder if they bugged their blueberry moms and dads the whole way here…
Do you know what types of fruits and vegetables can be grown where you live? Which ones are in season now?
The shopping list:
- 4 beautiful locally grown tomatoes (depending on season)
- 16 ounces of fresh mozzarella (It might be labeled “Buffalo Mozzarella”)
- 1 small red onion
- 1 large handful of fresh basil
- 4 teaspoons Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt
- Basil pesto (see recipe)
- Slice tomatoes into ‘coins,’ that are the width of your pinky finger nail.
- Slice your mozzarella the same size
- Chop your red onion into small squares, the smaller the better… Very very small (parents may want to supervise or lend a hand here).
The Fun Part
Serving dish: One large white plate
- With a large spoon, scoop a 1/4 cup of your previously made basil pesto onto the base of the plate. Smear the pesto around so that it evenly coats the center of the plate.
- Layer the tomato and mozzarella on top of the basil pesto so that it covers the entire plate. You should have green on the edges from the pesto and nothing but beautiful layered white mozzarella and red tomatoes in the center.
- Evenly drizzle both your olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top of your tomatoes and cheese.
- Season lightly with salt and pepper
- Garnish the plate with a sprinkle of red onion and lastly fresh basil leaves.