Photos by Donna

Nothing wrong and everything right with the common pairing of tomato, basil and mozzerella.  Mid-week lunch, with some whole wheat garlic toast (thanks for the On the Rise bread, Heidi–and nice headshot! and gorgeous bread salad with cherry tomato vinaigrette!).

Because we've had such abundant garlic, I fried big chunks of it in olive oil and spooned the hot garlic and oil over the basil and tomatoes.

Handful of basil leaves, three big tomatoes, 8 ounces of mozzarella, a head of garlic, olive  oil, salt, pepper, and a good baguette or something with crunch. All you need.  Again, for these salads, I like to salt the tomatoes a half hour in advance and toss them with some of the basil to get the flavors going.  You can layer the tomato and mozzarella if you want to get fancy but I like to serve it simply, family style.  And with a good bottle of red wine, this Shiraz in fact, for personal reasons.  A great meal, anything but cliché (and Carol, worthy of a nooner!).  If you're feeling inspired, make your own mozzarella and serve warm!


But with all these tomatoes I haven't had meat in days–tonight I'm grilling steak!


47 Wonderful responses to “Caprese Salad, a cliché?”

  • Andrew Tseng

    Love caprese salad. Been trying to mix it up a little bit recently with some burrata and some roasted tomatoes.

  • Becky and the Beanstock

    Great pick on the Hope Shiraz! I’m a big fan of this bottle, and I love the idea of combining it with the spicy basil.

    Cliche? Maybe, but Caprese salad has survived for a reason. It’s hard to miss with that set of ingredients.

  • Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    This is one of those blessed weeks when not one, but two, friends dropped off pounds and pounds of tomatoes on my front porch. Caprese for dinner several nights in a row — now I’m making gazpacho with the rest, and serving it with chunks of grilled salmon floating in the dish. After a while, the urge for protein is powerful…

  • Amber W.

    Have the steak with the caprese and you’ll have my husband’s favorite meal. With creme brulee to follow of course. It’s a beautiful salad.

  • milo

    And you didn’t melt a stick of butter over the tomatoes?

    Ye gods…hell must have frozen over or something.

  • Lynda

    How can a classic be cliché? I will settle for the tried and true of the ages any day. Steak is on that list, too.

  • Claire Walter

    You’re having grilled steak? Can you astrally project your leftover caprese my way. Here in Colorado, we planted a backyard vegetable and herb garden, but the deer got to the tomatoes before we did. So far we have had one (1) of our homegrown tomatoes. There are still a few green babies out there, some of which will hopefully ripen before it snows. Fortunately, we have friends with tomatoes and gardens that Bambi & Friends didn’t discover.

    Claire @ http://culinary-colorado.blogspot.com

  • amber

    looks so yummy! i’m never one to turn down a caprese salad, whether it’s an appetizer or a main course.

  • YOD

    Ruhlman, I gotta know. What are you using to chiffonade your basil so that it doesn’t wilt or start to brown by the time you get to photograh it? In your last 2 tomato posts, the basil looks perfect.

    I made caprese salads twice this past weekend. I also replicated your simple pasta with tomatoes and basil one night this week. Heavenly!

  • Kate in the NW

    Cliche? CLICHE???? You gotta be kidding.
    What happened to “classic” – you know, like Audrey Hepburn, like rare grilled steak and garlic bread to sop up the blood, like a racing-green 1963 Jag, like earsplitting rock-n-roll, like so MANY good things?

    I’m not against innovation (I reference here my comments on your last post), but some things never die. Caprese salad is one of them.

    Ah, the end of summer…! All too soon we’ll be breaking out the Creuset and talking about squash and roasts and house-warming long, slow braises. What a bittersweet time of year this is…

    Donna’s beautiful photos of late have inspired me to use my sorry-*ss point-and-shoot to record our own bounty. Thanks, Donna!

  • ruhlman

    kate, i was just throwing it out as a question! I too believe in the classics!

    YOD, the key to really green chiff is … surprise … a really sharp knife! with a sharp knife you can slice smoothly through the tightly bunched leaves rather than hack down on them like a paper cutter.

  • Rebecca T. of HonestMeat

    I love caprese salad in the summer when plump heirloom tomatoes are abundant. The problem is that it seems to me and many other foodie friends that Genovese basil has been bred to ship well and last longer that it no longer has the sweetness it once had. Anybody know where you can get the older varieties of Genovese basil that still has that sweet quality instead of the bitter stuff that seems to be the norm in markets these days?

  • Charlotte

    My tomatoes were coming in beautifully when the temps dropped down into the 50s! We haven’t had a frost yet but it was 39 when I got up at 6 this morning — they’re tented in plastic and I put a bunch of wall-o-waters in for thermal mass, but I’m very grumpy about it! (It’s supposed to warm up next week a little but summer is definitively over.)

  • CG

    I agree with the ‘classic’ votes. I also agree that the panzanella suggestion is dead-on. We’re getting a lot of mileage out of this lately. Gazpacho is next.

    PS- Ligurian basil roolz. Not sure where to get it tho.

  • kristin

    Local Market type store gets fresh produce from the farms so tomatoes at $.69 a pound makes for some good eating around my house. All we have been eating are tomato and basil salads with onion and occasionally some garlic with olive oil and cider vinegar dressing. Really simple and really good.

    Eggplant sandwich with tomato, fried orange pepper, mozarella and chiabada bread fresh made from the local place is something else we have been consuming. All the fresh veggies right now it is hard not to have fun.

  • Cali

    There is nothing better than a great Caprese made with homegrown ingredients. Sop up the juice with some crusty baguette. Mmmm. I will definitely not get my fill this year due to my tomato crop’s dismal failure.

  • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Well… it can be a really bad salad if you are doing it in winter with pallid winter tomatoes and tired basil flown from who knows where. But now, in summer with (homegrown) perfectly ripe tomatoes, fresh just picked basil, homemade crusty bread… oh wait, the olive oil is from California, have not managed to grow that yet in Virginia. But homemade mozzarella is this week-end’s project though, as rain is coming and the cheese cultures have arrived. How can this be a cliche: It’s simple food simply at its best = a feast!
    (and a Tomato sandwich using fat juicy slightly acid tomatoes on good honest sandwich bread, a smear a mayonnaise, a layer of Genovese basil, and some just fried thick cut uncured bacon also rates up there…)

    what’s amazing is that we find this food amazing! Should we be blessed to eat what’s best in each season and be grateful for it.

  • Adele

    I know what I’ll be having for dinner, tonight, and I have some great olive oil, given to my by friends, who were just in Italy. More fabulous pictures by Donna.

    When I saw the title of the entry, I feared that you might propose adding pork belly to the caprese. Glad you appreciate the classics.

  • We Are Never Full

    sigh. am i the only one who’s getting freaking depressed at the thought that summer is over and we won’t be swimming in fresh, beautiful tomatoes in a few short weeks? ARGH. this looks great and never gets old.

  • Tim Boyer

    OK, tomatoes from that Amish place on Route 700 where half the West Side Market really gets their vegetables – check.

    Mozzarella from Mustard Seed – check.

    Basil and garlic from the garden – check.

    Another perfect weekend in northeastern Ohio. Priceless.

    Michael, keep ’em coming. You’ve become my weekend recipe book…

  • French Laundry at Home

    Grant’s caprese salad at Alinea had frozen fresh mozzarella foam, a basil ice cream, and nine different preparations of tomatoes — including this tomato powder bomb that was my favorite. It was a really cool, well-layered dish.

  • Robert

    My kingdom for a good tomato. One of the sacrifices of living 60 degrees North. On the other hand Siver salmon are running and soon it will be Stealhead trout.

  • John Bowers

    Nothing beats the basic combo of awesome bread and a simple tomato salad… But as the temp starts dropping here in Chicago, I can’t help but get the itch for some serious braising.

    The Warm-And-Fuzzy season is upon us. Red wine. Fireplace. 8-Hour braise.

  • Teri

    speaking of abundant crops, here in Iowa the corn is plentiful and the nights are getting cooler, so fresh corn chowder is on the menu.

  • Dana

    We had nothing but tomatoes for dinner last night thanks to your latest blog. Thank you! Tomorrow night, we will grill steak.

  • NYCook

    Why not throw some pigs ears in the mix. A nice julienne to sprinkle over the top.

  • luis

    < <>>>

    This is real cooking and there certainly is nothing wrong with this. A quick note from the easily amused here… On GARLIC. I picked up a microplane at the Publix and the thing shaves garlic so thin it’s just like something you’d expect from the mortar and pestle garlic. Bottomline I am getting MORE GARLIC flavor with LESS garlic than ever.
    I know a good thing when I see it. Folks I highly recommend you get a microplane for your garlic. Haven’t really tried it on ginger or anything else. Afraid to screw up those micro blades. The thing comes with its own slide over the blades protector. So great I don’t have to break out the stick blender mortar and pestle or the food processor to get a little garlic on’tha pan…. so great!.

  • luis

    On fresh Basil…. I wish I had a mature Basil plant in my Patio that really produced piles and piles o’BASIL.
    Three or four leaves at the Publix…two bucks…or such….and most o’tha time they are out of it. Now I am squeezing tha damm herb out o’a tube.
    Does anyone know of such a Basil plant??? all I get down here in Fl so far just puts out puny branchy looking things that produce very little leaves.
    I am in south fl…again someone out there if you know some monster basil plant like the ones I see on t.v. that I could get….please let me know the name. Much Appreciated.

  • heather

    I love Caprese too. When it’s made well, with the BEST of ingredients. It is ruined totally with cheap cheese, bad grocery store tomatoes that taste like…well nothing, and cheap oil.

    Have had some unpleasant experiences in restaurants. I think it is paramount when making a dish with so few ingredients you only use the best. However, I guess some try to cut corners/cost.

    Anyway, it’s a classic and a fab one at that.

  • heather

    luis I grow fresh basil in my garden and on my kitchen window sill in a little pot. It is really prolific to. I can’t keep up with the one in my garden. I am always giving some to people. I bought small plants of Italian Sweet Basil and transplanted them in my garden. Last summer I took some clippings and potted them in so I would have some over winter. I find they like sort of a sandy soil. Don’t know if that helps.

  • Sara

    I think caprese salad can be really good – but it can also be really bad. It’s all about quality ingredients!

  • David J Rust

    I love it! With my Brandywine tomatoes and Italian Sweet Basil in the garden, I’ve been eating this frequently. Just spritz with a tiny bit of Balsamic and I’m good to go!

  • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Listen you people who have issues with garlic… don’t you know it keeps the vampires away?

    Thanks again, Michael. As much as I love restaurant food, I enjoy well made home food and I am happy when others (especially respected others like you) spread the word!I think it’s very inspiring to see how simple really good food can be. The difficulty is in picking (or growing) the raw ingredients, not in cooking!

  • luis

    Thank you Heather…”Italian Sweet Basil”. I will try it. My bro suggested there is too much heat and sun in the patio. I am envy folks that enjoy so much success with their Basil.
    Yesterday the cascading fl keys black olive bon sai pot went over and was leaning in the storm. This morning the pot was right side up again. Amazing stuff..in the land of the easily amused.

  • luis

    Sylvie, You know you can cook and how food should taste when your focus turns to the quality of the ingredients. That is the end game for a home cook I think.

  • alicia carrier

    maybe not a cliche, but if i see the phrase “summer on a plate!” in reference to a caprese salad one more time, i think i’m going to ralph. food bloggers, i’m not “loving this” at all.