While the original Insalata Caprese hails from the the Italian region of Campania, it becomes distinctly Minnesotan in August. For a wonderful, short burst of abundance, local farms, gardens and deck containers yeild sweet, juicy tomatoes in an array of colors, shapes and sizes. This is the perfect fruit for the Italian salad of Caprese.
Fresh herbs attain a lush vigor in August, too here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Aromatic basil is ready to havest and lend its spiciness to its pal the tomato. While pestos are popular in August, be sure to save some fresh sprigs for Capreses salads (yes, that is plural because one you fix one salad, you'll want more).
The final local ingredient is fresh mozarella. Cheese crafters in this region prepare a fresh curd that can be pulled into the best mozarella ever. Only in August does Lily, the cheese queen of Valley Natural Foods, pull fresh mozarella for the small audience of shoppers that gather to taste the warm putty-like results of her work.
Last night I came home with fresh mozarella still warm from the co-op. While my husband fired-up the grill for locally-grown steaks, I plucked the reddest of my tomatoes and snipped a few sprigs of my purple-hued Thai basil. Following the simple recipe below, I prepared a taste of Italy, Minnesota-style. It's like savoring a little bit of Italy in your own backyard.
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh cracked black pepper
Slice the tomatoes and cheese. Arrange slices on a plate, alternating tomato and cheese. Crush the basil leaves slightly by hand and garnish the array. Drizzle eaqual amounts of olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the ingredients. Add a sprinkling of fresh cracked black pepper. Salt is not necessary since there is a pleasant saltiness to the fresh mozzarella. Slow down, relax and enjoy the waning muggy days of summer.