If caprese and bruschetta had a baby, it would look like this appetizer. Crunchy garlic crostini topped with juicy heirloom tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and a tangy drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Mangia!
A classic caprese salad is comprised of tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper.
No more. No less.
Well, we will not be making a classic caprese salad. Since I am the self-proclaimed queen of recipe reconstruction, I’m breaking the rules a bit.
First off, I’m using balsamic. I understand this is a no-no for traditionalist, but this is how my family has been making it since I was a kid, so this is how it’s going down. The vinegar mixes with the olive oil and tomato juices and creates a deliciously savory, robust liquid.
Next off, I’m adding carbs. I toast small slices of crusty bread (or crostini), rub it with garlic, and then use it as a vessel to eat the caprese—much like bruschetta. It’s also good for sopping up that delicious liquid from the tomatoes, vinegar, and oil I was talking about.
I suppose technically this could be called caprese bruschetta fusion, but whatever. What’s more important than the name, is the quality of ingredients you choose. Italian dishes like these with very few ingredients, demand quality. Here are some tips.
Make sure to get the BEST ingredients you can find.
- Tomatoes: Your tomatoes should be room temperature (homegrown, ideally) heirlooms or the closest you can find. If you need some help from a tomato snob, read this.
- Mozzarella: Get soft, fresh mozzarella packed in water and tear it apart with your hands. Step away from the pre-sliced rubbery logs, please.
- Basil: Use vibrant, healthy basil (I grow mine) and tear the leaves, don’t use a knife.
- Olive oil (and vinegar): Make sure your olive oil (and vinegar) is bold and robust. You want the oil to be slightly sharp and bitey to complement the sweet and creamy flavors in the salad.
- Salt and pepper: Use coarse salt and pepper to give some added texture.
- Crostini: Choose bread that’s crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Ciabatta is a good option.
- Garlic: Use fresh, whole garlic cloves. Not pre-peeled.
I know I broke the rules, today—and I highly recommend you do the same—but these tips will help build a better caprese, whether you drizzle with balsamic and pile it on a crostini or cut the carbs and keep it classic.
HEIRLOOM TOMATO CAPRESE WITH GARLIC CROSTINI
- heirloom tomatoes
- fresh basil leaves
- fresh mozzarella, in water
- extra virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar (optional)
- coarse salt and pepper
- ciabatta, sliced thin
- garlic clove, peeled
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Cut ciabatta (or any crusty bread) into thin, rustic slices. Drizzle with olive oil on both sides and bake in the oven on a cooling rack set on a cookie sheet for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. If you don’t have a cooling rack, just flip the bread halfway through cooking. The bread should be crunchy, but still have some chew when it’s finished.
While bread is in the oven, cut tomatoes into thick slices and cut in half again (if tomatoes are large) to make half circles. Place tomatoes on a platter and layer with freshly torn chunks of mozzarella and basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle olive oil and balsamic over the whole thing.
Peel a clove of garlic, cut the end off, and rub on toasted bread. Top with a slice of tomato, mozzarella, and basil and use the crostini to soak up the juices from the salad.