Market Flavours: Tomatoes and Basil to create a Caprese Salad

Monday, August 3, 2009

TomatoesPlanning to attend a “long lunch” at my friend Pat’s place yesterday on the Sunday afternoon of a long weekend, I decided to take along a caprese salad; or rather, to take along the makings of the salad and create it there. I picked up plum/Roma tomatoes and fresh basil from Bosco Farms at the market on Saturday (then had to replenish half of the tomato supply from a local shop yesterday morning after an unfortunate eating incident 🙂 ), and made a trip out to the Cheese Boutique to procure mozzarella di bufala: authentic buffalo-milk fresh mozzarella imported from Italy. Okay, not exactly a 100-mile ingredient, but there’s really no replacement for it, and I’m not sure if there’s an Ontario cheesemaker that creates a true mozzarella di bufala.

Caprese saladCaprese salad is so easy to make, with the taste completely dependent on the quality and freshness of the ingredients. The tomatoes have to be at the peak of ripeness, the basil fresh (never dried), and the mozzarella fresh and creamy. Although the assembly and presentation is a matter of personal taste, I sliced the tomatoes quite thin and alternated the slices with whole basil leaves in rows on a plate, then sliced the mozzarella and draped the slices over the top. Since the tomatoes were small, I had many more slices of tomato than mozzarella, so this served to share the slices of the mozzarella over the tomato and basil slices. I tossed a few small leaves of basil on top of the cheese to finish it. If I had been using larger tomatoes, I probably would have laid them out in a single layer on a larger platter, topped each slice with a basil leaf, then a half or quarter slice of the cheese.

Huff Estates dry roséI had completely forgotten about dressing the salad, but Pat has much the same taste in salad toppings as I do, so had a lovely Italian olive oil (from St. Lawrence Market, I believe) and a truly outstanding aged balsamic vinegar at hand. I drizzled a bit of each over the salad just to play against the natural flavours, and the masterpiece was complete.

Pat made duck confit sandwiches (every bit as decadent as they sound), and a group of us enjoyed the very different but oddly complementary dishes together – along with a lovely Huff Estates dry rosé, amongst other wines – while spending the afternoon on her back porch. Later, I made stuffed zucchini flowers, and Pat grilled fresh sardines and corn on the BBQ. Needless to say, “lunch” lasted until around 10pm.

Tomatoes and basil are available at Bosco Farms at the St. Andrew’s Farmers’ Market, every Saturday until October 31st, rain or shine, 9am-1pm. It’s on Adelaide Street West at Maud, about halfway between Spadina and Bathurst.

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