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“Meals in which cheese is allowed to take the pace of another protein are no worse for your arteries and as good for your soul as any others… Eating a piece of cheese instead of meat is a good allocation of digestive resources. If it’s not slathered on top of steak but in its place, there’s no reason a large piece of strong runny cheese, or whatever cheese…, can’t be a meal, eaten with good bread.” – Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal

I had several Caprese salads served like this in July when Paul and I were on our warm up holiday in Italy. I love both the simplicity and the brazenness of it: yes, there is an entire ball of cheese in your salad. We’re not going to cut it up and scatter it around to diminish it’s presence. This is an in-your-face meal of cheese. The last caprese salad I had in Italy was a platter of sliced tomatoes, basil leaves, a log of mozzarella, and a spoon.

It’s a glorious salad. The best tomatoes the season has to offer – it’ll be long months before I have tomatoes like this again. A rich, soft ball of mozzarella, scored deeply so it can be pulled apart with a fork. Good olive oil. Not the kind you’d cook with – we brought a bottle back from Italy and this was the first thing I did with it. This caprese salad is a showstopper, no doubt. Serve each of your guests a plate like this to start your meal, and you’ll have something to talk about over dinner. Or, make it a long platter with several balls of mozzarella, and serve it family style.

Two years ago: The Sandwich System

Caprese Salad Recipe:

Since fresh mozzarella cheese and tomatoes are the stars of this salad, spring for the best you can find of both. I used farmer’s market tomatoes of various colours, and hunted down a ball of decadent buffalo mozzarella.

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For each salad:

fresh tomatoes, enough to reach layered around the rim of a large plate, sliced at least 1cm thick (this was three medium-small tomatoes)
one large ball of fresh mozzarella
a small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
very good olive oil for drizzling
balsamic vinegar if you like
salt and pepper

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Arrange the tomato slices layered like a fan around the rim of a large plate. Score the ball of fresh mozzarella, cutting about 2/3 of the way through, and place it in the middle of the plate. Scatter torn basil leaves around the plate. Drizzle the tomatoes and the mozzarella with good quality olive oil, and a touch of balsamic if you like. Finish with salt and pepper, then sit down and enjoy your salad.

Let’s be serious about this salad – it has a massive ball of cheese in the middle. It’s an awesome salad, a bold salad, a luxurious salad, and is absolutely without a doubt a moderation situation. Make it, and really, really enjoy it, but only once in a while. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, and the antioxidant carotenoid lycopene (good for your prostates, fellas!).

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012

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