Caprese Salad

082913-StirItUp

I have been known to give you some pretty simple recipes over the years, with some of them having few ingredients. Like roux for instance, which has only two ingredients: butter and flour. Or, how about brown butter? Let’s see, there is butter … and, oh yeah, … that’s it. How hard are the directions for something like that? Place the butter in a sauté pan on the stove and cook over high heat giving it the occasional swish, until the butter starts to foam and turn golden brown. Be careful not to go to dark brown, which is burnt butter and bitter.

In the case of making roux, yes, there are only two ingredients, but when cooked to varying degrees, they will yield very different results and be used for different dishes. As for the single ingredient recipe of brown butter, this may sound just a bit too simple to even bother writing an entire article about, but sometimes the absolute simplest things can add the most wonderful flavor to dishes. But, once you try putting a little brown butter on your fish, green beans or a steak, you’ll see why it is worth giving you those simplest of recipes. Taking that one extra minute, that’s all it takes to brown butter, will change your whole dish.

The Caprese Salad is one of those dishes that, although it has more ingredients than brown butter or roux, you will still have plenty of room in the basket for a nice bottle of wine. My co-worker Steve is a tomato aficionado, and practically held a fork to my head to convince me this should be the recipe of the week. Since he is right by saying this is the time of the year for this salad, and, I knew I’d never be safe near him again as long as he had a fork in his hand, here you go.

Like most recipes, the better the ingredients, the better the dish. Right now, tomatoes are at their peak, and along with some fresh basil and mozzarella, the only other things you’ll need are some nice extra virgin olive oil, salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

“Ouch,” he just stabbed me with the fork and reminded me about the balsamic vinegar. That is a popular addition that is often served with this salad, but is totally up to the eater. This is a dish you will want to break out your best extra virgin olive oil for and, yes, the balsamic is a great touch.

This salad also is generally served as a first course and not as a side salad. You can cut the ingredients into small cubes instead of slices making it spoon-friendly or even good as a dip, or, dare I say, layer it onto a burger. The point is, use your imagination with the ingredients in different shapes for different uses. Enjoy.

Caprese Salad
3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes heirlooms are awesome
1 lb. fresh mozzarella
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, picked whole from the stems
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top
Balsamic vinegar to drizzle over the top
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Cut the tomatoes and mozzarella into one-quarter inch slices. Alternate the tomato slices, mozzarella and basil, laying them out in a step pattern so they slightly overlap each other. Use one whole basil leaf as its own layer. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar, sprinkle with the salt and black pepper to taste.

Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. For more information and archived copies of Stir it Up, visit chefsmitty.com. Smitty welcomes your questions and comments at [email protected] or (530) 412-3598.

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Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.