(Tomato and Mozzarella Salad)
Insalata caprese (literally, the salad from Capri) is the perfect summertime dish for cooks in a hurry; slicing is the hardest part. The salad was created in the 1950s at the Trattoria da Vincenzofor regulars out for a light lunch. They’d order a just-pickedtomato and fresh fior di latte (cow’s-milk mozzarella — no buffalo on Capri). The salad has evolved on the island to include a few leaves of rughetta (wild arugula) and a pinch of dried wild oregano, both local products; everywhere else in Italy it takes the form of tomato, mozzarella and basil.
The dressing is always a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil — only. Vinegar would destroy the delicate flavor of the cheese and is never used. Because this salad is so simple, top-rate ingredients are imperative: Hothouse tomatoes and rubbery processed mozzarella are unacceptable.
Can be prepared in 10 minutes or less.
YIELD: Serves 4 to 6
- 2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced1/4 inch thick
- 1/4 cup packed fresh basil or arugula leaves, washed well and spun dry
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled, if using arugula instead of basil
- 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- fine sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
On a large platter arrange tomato and mozzarella slices and basil leaves, alternating and overlapping them. Sprinkle salad with oregano and arugula and drizzle with oil. Season salad with salt and pepper.