Saturday, 20 October 2012

simply caprese

Can you imagine how intimidated I as when I cooked the first meal for my Italian/Greek boyfriend? Me? Being German I belong to a people who is thought to live off Sauerkraut an Würstel. (I get this stereotype all the time, no matter where I am. I do not remember my Mama ever making supper consisting of Sauerkraut and Würstel. Who knows where this is coming from?) So what I did I do? I consulted my favourite Italian cook book, the one written by a famous British chef and hoped for the best.
Jamie Oliver calls for buffalo mozzarella and he is right on. For Italians this is by the way the one and only kind of mozzarella to use in a caprese, no compromise. Ever. The chef explains in "Jamie's Italy" how important it is to use fresh ingredients and suggests mixed ripe tomatoes which I used for the first version. Over the years, however, and I came to find that the tomatoes we like the best are "pomodori cuore di bue" or "beefsteak tomatoes". They have a funny shape. If you find them at your local market get them and when they are fresh, you will love the taste and use them all the time.
I pretty much followed Jamie Oliver's recipe, but when it came to adding the vinegar I realized that I had run out! From that day on, our caprese is served without vinegar, we hardly ever use it on other dishes, because we find it upsets the stomach and overshadows the taste of the good-quality olive oil. And this, I would say, is the key to a great caprese or any salad you ever make: it's the olive oil, Baby. We are fortunate enough to always have a supply of fresh olive oil from V.'s Greek family's own olive orchard in Peloponnese. If you don't have access to your own olive trees I would suggest you spend a bit more and check the colour (the greener the better I find) and smell or even sample taste it. Hmmmm.
One other thing I now change about Jamie's caprese is the onion. Instead of using the white of a green onion, I use a tiny bit of a red onion, about one spoonful, very finely chopped. Very very finely.

serves 2

2 x balls of buffalo mozzarella (150 grams each)
3 ripe tomatoes or two large beefsteak tomatoes
one spoonful of very finely chopped red onion
extra virgin olive oil of the best quality
a large handful of fresh basil
sea salt and pepper

For the dressing chop most of the basil and smash it together with olive oil, salt and pepper. You could use mortar and pestle or just a small bowl and a fork.
Tear the mozzarella apart and cut the tomatoes into various sized chunks. Place in a bowl and add the finely chopped onions. Toss with olive oil. Add the dressing, toss again. Add remaining basil leaves. I let everything rest for about 30 minutes, so that the tomatoes and mozzarella have room temperature and the flavours mix well. Yum.

Anxiously I was looking at V. when he took the first bite. Irritated himself that he was being observed, he stopped chewing. "Do you like it?" I asked and he answered "This is the best caprese I ever ate." Thank you Jamie!!!

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