Caprese is one those classic and very simple salads that relies heavily on using the best possible ingredients in order to make it perfect. With only 3 main components – tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil, you really should buy the best of the best. It also needs a stand out olive oil in order to make it shine.
Tomatoes: Use the ripest, sweetest and best possible red tomatoes you can find. In South Africa, I find the best that we have are the Mediterranean rosa and baby tomatoes (on the vine), so I like to use these. If necessary allow them to ripen at room temperature which further intensifies their flavour.
Mozzarella: It has to be a proper fior di latte or buffalo mozzarella for the caprese. I wanted to use bocconcini but my grocer was out of stock, so I cut up one larger ball.
Basil: I like fresh young basil leaves for the caprese salad, they are fragrant and packed with flavour.
Olive oil: use the very best quality extra virgin olive oil you can afford and I used Marbrin, delicate extra virgin olive oil from the Breede Valley in Robertson.
I then added my own twist. As a textural eater, I like a bit of crunch in my food, so I thought the caprese would be wonderful in little phyllo baskets – which are way easier to make than they may look, and I added olive tapenade to the dressing give it another flavour dimension.
Marbrin – a boutique and family-run table olive and olive oil producer, recently won 3 gold awards in all 3 categories (Delicate, medium and Intense) at the recent 2013 SA Olive oil awards. This is a spectacular achievement and all the results can be seen here. They won a whole bunch of awards in 2012, so are clearly going from strength to strength. When I tasted the oil, I knew it was something exceptional and have been keeping it to use for my salads and to drizzle over prepared dishes only. A top quality olive oil should not be used in cooking, as the high temperatures denature it and destroys some of its delicate flavor.
Marbrin also produce fabulous table olives (Kalamata and Mission cultivars), and tapenade (Traditional and a Garlic, lemon and nutmeg variant), and I was thrilled when they asked me to do a recipe using these their range. I got all carried away and came up with three, so watch this space.
I used the Traditional tapenade (which has anchovies, capers, garlic, salt pepper and lemon) in this recipe along with their delicate olive oil. Mixed into a simple vinaigrette, it worked perfectly with the caprese salad. It would be lovely on other salads too, or drizzled over cooked meat, grilled fish or pizza.
- 2 cups of cherry or rosa tomatoes, cut into half or quarters
- 3T chopped basil
- 1 fior di latte mozzarella ball / about a cup (250g weight in liquid)
- extra basil leaves to garnish
- 3 sheets of phyllo pastry
- 20g butter, melted in the microwave
- 2t olive tapenade
- 5T extra virgin olive oil
- 2T good quality red or white wine vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- sea salt and pepper
- Pre heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F and grease 9 cups in a 12 cup non-stick muffin tray.
- Working quickly, lightly brush a sheet of phyllo pastry with melted butter and then cut it into 9 roughly equal squares. Place the square of pastry, buttered side up, over the muffin hole and gently press it in. Repeat with the other two sheets of phyllo, overlapping the pastry as you place it over the previous piece. You want to have 3 squares of pastry per muffin hole, overlapped.
- Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until it is golden brown (make sure you watch this carefully).
- Remove and allow to cool.
- Cut the tomatoes into roughly the same size pieces and toss in the bowl with the basil.
- Cut the mozzarella ball into equal size pieces and mix with the tomatoes and basil.
- Put all the salad ingredients into a glass jar and shake vigorously, tasting to adjust the seasoning and intensity as you go. Add more tapenade or oil to suit your preference.
- Just before you are about to serve, pour enough dressing over the salad to coat it well, toss and dish up into the cooled phyllo cups. garnish with fresh basil leaves.
You can make the phyllo baskets ahead of time or the day before and store in an airtight container. If you want to intensify the olive flavor, drop half a teaspoon of tapenade into the bottom of each phyllo basket before you add the salad.
*Disclaimer ~ Marbrin have sponsored this recipe post
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