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Haven's Baby-friendly Tomato Caprese Salad

7/13/2020


Like the classic BLT, caprese salad is one of those simple but delicious dishes that represents tomato season. Since tomatoes star front and center, it is best saved for the months of the year when vine-ripe tomatoes are available. I have been making this salad in some version since I was a teenager, using tomatoes and basil from my father's garden, and fresh mozzarella from a small specialty Italian deli in my hometown of Springfield, Illinois. This is something I look forward to from the end of tomato season until next year.


While it will work with almost any soft mozzarella, I prefer to use the softest, freshest available. I also use an aged balsamic vinegar for very concentrated, sweet notes. But I encourage you to experiment with a variety of white and red balsamic vinegars, and different tomato and basil varieties.


Our first quart of cherry tomatoes of the season sits on the kitchen counter, and it has captured the attention of my 11 month old. She eyes the tomatoes every time we pass by, and my husband indulges her curiosity with juicy delicious bites. This inspired me to make a "baby" version of my all-time favorite fresh tomato dish. This enables my daughter to try a variety of tomatoes and basils from my herb garden as she tries these foods for the very first time. After she finished a dish of this, she continued clamoring for more tomatoes and mozzarella.


Ingredients, for 1 serving:


5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered. Use a mix of varieties for color and flavor


6-7 "pearl" mozzerella balls


1 Tbsp aged Balsamic Vinegar


3-4 leaves fresh Basil, cut into thin ribbons. Like the tomatoes, experiment with different varieties.


1 Tbsp good quality first cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)


Freshly ground black pepper


Pink Himalayan salt or sea salt. Avoid using fine table salt as it tends to have a harsh, overpowering flavor. This dish is best enjoyed with a mellow, good quality sea salt.



Note: if you can't find pearl mozzarella balls at your local supermarket or specialty store, simply cut any soft mozzarella into bite-sized pieces about the same size as the tomato pieces.


Tip: to cut basil into ribbons, lay the leaves on top of one another, and roll into a tight roll. Slice thinly across the roll with a paring knife.


Instructions:

Combine tomatoes, mozzerella, and basil in a small mixing bowl.


Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and EVOO. Salt and pepper to taste.


Serve as "finger food" for baby, or in a pretty dish as an elegant side for older children or grown ups.



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