It’s the middle of August and my tomatoes are almost done. I’ve had a banner year in terms of yield, but since I planted in April and we have an early growing season, almost everything came ripe at once in July. I always say I’m going to stagger the planting, but I never do because I’m so enthralled by choice when at the nursery. Better Boy? Green Zeebra? Lemon Boy? Brandywine? San Marzano? Why yes, I’ll take one of each please.
This is about 2 weeks worth of tomatoes in July.
Since I don’t can my tomatoes, I mostly make sauce and soup and freeze it. I also freeze peeled and seeded tomatoes. And we eat lots and lots of fresh tomatoes in salads, on bagels, in sandwiches (best BLT ever), but the caprese is probably our favorite way of eating fresh tomatoes.
The traditional Insalata Caprese originated on the Italian island of Capri and includes red sliced tomatoes, white sliced fresh mozarella and green basil; all the colors of the Italian flag. I call this a “California” Caprese because of the non-traditional addition of avocado which, if you don’t have Green Zeebra tomatoes, gives a lovely bit of color as well as its smooth creamy flavor to the dish. Also, I include balsamic vinegar which is not traditional when ordering this salad in Italy, but has become more common here in the US.
In this recipe, I use a reduced balsamic which is often called “cream of balsamic” or “balsamic glaze“. I like the little bit of extra sweetness and the fact that it sticks to the ingredients rather than running off and pooling on the bottom of the plate.
Play with this all you want; use all colors and sizes of tomato. Leave off the avocado or if you’re vegan, consider it a substitution for the cheese. But whatever you do, use the best possible ingredients; use truly ripe tomatoes and the best quality fresh mozzarella (either buffalo or cow’s milk) you can find. The mozzarella you grate on pizza is not the same thing as fresh soft mozzarella, trust me. Use a decent quality vinegar or leave it off altogether as the Italians do. This recipe is so simple you can assemble it in five minutes and can easily bring it to a potluck to be assembled there.