One of the best things of summer are home grown tomatoes. Eating that first home grown tomato salad with mozzarella and fresh basil — often called a “caprese salad” — is truly a rite of summer in our family. As John Denver crooned, “Home grown tomatoes. Home grown tomatoes. What would life be without home grown tomatoes? There’s only two things that money can’t buy and that’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”
I’ve tasted a wide variety of tomato, mozzarella and basil salads. Some folks use white wine vinegar, others red wine vinegar. The secret to mine is an addictive 12 year old “gold label” balsamic vinegar from Italy called “Fattoria Estense.”
To serve 4, I usually use 4-5 big tomatoes and one whole ball of mozzarella.
Turn the tomatoes on their side and slice off about 1/4 inch where the stem was. Then, cut slim even slices. Next, slice the mozzarella into thin slices. Using any plate that is attractive and to your liking, alternate two to three slices of tomato with one slice of mozzarella until you’ve used all of the tomato and mozzarella.
Sprinkle a good size pinch (3/4 of a tablespoon) of sea salt over the tomatoes and mozzarella slices. Crack good black pepper over the salad. Hand-tear about a 1/4 cup of basil leaves over the salad. Pour a steady stream of high quality olive oil from an oil cruet (about 1/4 cup). Finally pour a steady steam of the balsamic vinegar over the salad (about 1/8 cup).
Serve immediately. Hot crusty bread is mandatory for dipping up the sauce made by the tomato/oil/vinegar mix. The dish doesn’t refrigerate well so you should make only the amount of salad you need.