Let's talk about caprese

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Let's talk about caprese

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:40 pm

Last night I made a traditional caprese, posted in the What's Cookin' topic:
viewtopic.php?f=5&t=33714&start=2088#p368596

Today I did it again, second day in a row. A different approach, though: Where last night's was composed, neat rounds of oxheart tomato and fresh mozz' with olive oil and neatly cut basil chiffonade, tonight's was all diced ingredients, mixed in a bowl and decorated with tiny basil leaves. The composed version is pretty, but the mixed version deliciously blends the flavors. 

I'm posting this as a separate topic in the interest of discussion: What's your preference in caprese construction? Or do you make it another way? With luck we'll have another six to eight weeks of tomatoes here, so I'm hoping to have time to experiment yet. 

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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Dale Williams » Sun Sep 02, 2012 10:56 pm

we eat a lot of Caprese during tomato season, but I confess to never trying diced (but will).
Mostly I stick to classical, though sometimes I add a bit of balsamic, and a few times have used Betsy's pesto instead of the basil. I've also added an anchovy or black olive, or served over dressed baby greens.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:21 pm

Great timing, Robin. I made a traditional Caprese last night, but was thinking it would have been nice to have changed it up a bit. Thought I'd post something to see what others do in such cases but you beat me to it!

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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:33 am

I'm closer to traditional: overlapping slices of tomato here, overlapping slices of mozz there, maybe a few olives, a sprinkle of salt, a scratch of black pepper from the grinder, chiffonade basil. Sometimes a splash of EVOO. I've kinda given up on balsamic in this dish... I think it reads "cooked" or "old" when everything else screams "fresh".
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Mark Lipton » Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:35 am

Traditional here. In times past we used to use rounds of slice baguette to place the assembled slices on (and mop up the leftover juices/EVOO) but since Jean's gone gluten-free, that practice has fallen by the wayside (though not, thankfully, the caprese).

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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Ted Richards » Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:56 pm

I've always been a traditonalist - sliced buffalo mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and basil chiffonade (OK, maybe not quite traditional). The last time I made it, I tried a suggestion from Laura Calder's Dinner Chez Moi and used burrata* instead of mozzarella. It was a Canadian burrata, and so probably wasn't as good as imported, but it was very good - on par with the classic recipe. The cream from the burrata combined with the olive oil (and a little Balsamic vinegar) for a tasty sauce.

Interestingly, she suggests that if you can't find burrata to use buffalo mozzarella instead, as if that was an unusual substitution.

A variation on your chopped-up version is the pasta with salsa cruda (raw chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper) that I make - I add diced de-rinded Brie to the hot pasta before mixing in the other ingredients. It makes a very creamy version of the sauce (but still uncooked).

* an Italian cheese consisting of a shell of mozzarella enclosing a mixture of cream and mozzarella - see http://cooketteonline.blogspot.ca/2011/05/burrata.html
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Frank Deis » Mon Sep 03, 2012 1:08 pm

Mine is always carefully arranged. More or less identical tomato slices (wedges) arranged around the edge of the plate, all facing the same way. Then salt if red tomato, minimal sugar if green zebra. Then identical slices of mozzarella, one per tomato slice, and finally one basil leaf perched on each slice of mozz. It's very pretty, in an Italian Flag kind of way. Just before serving, drizzle good olive oil on top.

I should take a picture -- we just finished eating one made from a big Purple Cherokee. Yum-oh!
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:39 pm

I wing it, it all tastes great. Sometimes heirloom tomato slices all laid on in a circle on a plate until the plate fills up. The cheese on top, small basil leaves scattered here and there. Other times I mix it up in a bowl, with Kalamata olives. I never use balsamic because it just seems to powerful for those mild heirlooms. Rather, I prefer a champagne vinegar with a fruity evoo. I have never made the stacked. They are very pretty but around here, with my elderly hands and Gene's large and muscular hands, stacks do not handle well. :) I do a sherry wine vinegar sometimes with a little walnut oil...that is excellent too, but I dress it very lightly.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Jenise » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:10 pm

I have done a mixed dice only when the salad's being served in front of the TV. Otherwise, for a sit-down meal (as most are here at Chez J), over the years I've arrived at favoring the modern, linear arrangement you see here in the salads we had for lunch today.

IMG_4608.JPG
IMG_4608.JPG (33.78 KiB) Viewed 2300 times


For me, the perfect caprese is a mix of heirloom or sweet garden tomatoes, generous slices of mozzarella (about four ounces per serving), spectacular condiment-grade EVOO, Maldon salt, fresh ground tellicherry and basil cut in chiffonade, with the tender smallest leaves reserved for garnish. We like a LOT of basil.

This presentation serves the rather anal approach we both take to this meal, cutting the tomato and mozzarella into bites as one goes through the layers, getting a bit of basil on each bite all with a view toward never getting too much or too little such that you arrive at your last two or three bites with the perfect balance of all three ingredients and enough tomato juice, salt, pepper and olive oil on the plate for one last saturated swipe of the crusty bread that must go with this meal. Any other result is Caprese FAIL.

I only use balsamic to embolden a caparese made with winter tomatoes, but I'm talking a real true balsamic here, as no balsamic is better than the cheap kind that's overly acidic and simple sugar-sweet that shows up in most restaurant versions these days.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Jeff Grossman/NYC » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:33 pm

Variant caprese last night: I prepared a bed of chopped, dressed spinach. Then I laid it with slices of Pyriform Red and Green Zebra, s+p, evoo, a sprinkle of chopped basil, and, in the middle of the plate, a few slices of fresh chevre. Yum.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Bob Henrick » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:25 am

Dale Williams wrote:we eat a lot of Caprese during tomato season, but I confess to never trying diced (but will).
Mostly I stick to classical, though sometimes I add a bit of balsamic, and a few times have used Betsy's pesto instead of the basil. I've also added an anchovy or black olive, or served over dressed baby greens.


Dale, I too like using balsamic in my caprese, and on occasion I have used rice vinegar, as well as sherry and champagne vinegars.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Jenise » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:01 pm

Jeff Grossman/NYC wrote:Variant caprese last night: I prepared a bed of chopped, dressed spinach. Then I laid it with slices of Pyriform Red and Green Zebra, s+p, evoo, a sprinkle of chopped basil, and, in the middle of the plate, a few slices of fresh chevre. Yum.


Sounds great! Chevre is a great cheese for tomatoes.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:57 pm

Ted Richards wrote:It was a Canadian burrata, and so probably wasn't as good as imported, but it was very good - on par with the classic recipe.

As freshness is so important to burrata, I'd guess it was likely to be better than imported. I only will buy burrata from producers, not a supermarket product, luckily we have some mozzarella producers at farmers markets and such. Actually I occasionally buy buffalo mozz, but generally prefer cow mozz that's warm when I get it.
As for balsamic, as I noted we use occasionally, most for tomatoes that aren't quite up to par, but recently because a (truly gorgeous) yellow heirloom was tasty but seemed low acid, and I thought it needed some spark next to roundness of mozzarella. We use a 12 year old Modena (it only takes drops), but I recently tried and liked a balsamic made in Chicago (!!!) and bought a bottle to experiment with.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Ted Richards » Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:45 pm

Dale Williams wrote:
Ted Richards wrote:It was a Canadian burrata, and so probably wasn't as good as imported, but it was very good - on par with the classic recipe.

As freshness is so important to burrata, I'd guess it was likely to be better than imported.


I was guessing here. That was the first burrata I've had (but won't be the last). I was guessing it wouldn't be as good as imported because the buffalo mozzarella I've had from the same producer wasn't as good as the Italian that I usually get (though better than any other Canadian mozzarella I've had).

I'll have to try an Italian burrata and compare.
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Covert » Tue Sep 11, 2012 8:51 pm

Jenise wrote:I have done a mixed dice only when the salad's being served in front of the TV. Otherwise, for a sit-down meal (as most are here at Chez J), over the years I've arrived at favoring the modern, linear arrangement you see here in the salads we had for lunch today.

IMG_4608.JPG


For me, the perfect caprese is a mix of heirloom or sweet garden tomatoes, generous slices of mozzarella (about four ounces per serving), spectacular condiment-grade EVOO, Maldon salt, fresh ground tellicherry and basil cut in chiffonade, with the tender smallest leaves reserved for garnish. We like a LOT of basil.

This presentation serves the rather anal approach we both take to this meal, cutting the tomato and mozzarella into bites as one goes through the layers, getting a bit of basil on each bite all with a view toward never getting too much or too little such that you arrive at your last two or three bites with the perfect balance of all three ingredients and enough tomato juice, salt, pepper and olive oil on the plate for one last saturated swipe of the crusty bread that must go with this meal. Any other result is Caprese FAIL.

I only use balsamic to embolden a caparese made with winter tomatoes, but I'm talking a real true balsamic here, as no balsamic is better than the cheap kind that's overly acidic and simple sugar-sweet that shows up in most restaurant versions these days.


Good God, Jenise! I just looked at the picture of your caprese and got the feeling I sometimes get with a Jackson Pollock, or other great artist abstract expressionist, in my gut awareness, that the presentation has perfect balance. Although what you created is actually a still life, I guess; it just looks abstract. What an extraordinary creation!
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:57 am

Ted Richards wrote:
Dale Williams wrote:
Ted Richards wrote:It was a Canadian burrata, and so probably wasn't as good as imported, but it was very good - on par with the classic recipe.

As freshness is so important to burrata, I'd guess it was likely to be better than imported.


I was guessing here. That was the first burrata I've had (but won't be the last). I was guessing it wouldn't be as good as imported because the buffalo mozzarella I've had from the same producer wasn't as good as the Italian that I usually get (though better than any other Canadian mozzarella I've had).

I'll have to try an Italian burrata and compare.


I've actually found Italian burrata to be unreliable, around here anyway. Burrata needs to be extremely fresh and it seems that it's difficult to get the Italian stuff here and on the shelves quickly enough that it's not lost that freshness. We usually go for something domestic when we buy burrata, and are usually very happy with what we get. YMMV, of course.

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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Sep 18, 2012 12:20 am

Part of our supper tonight was a salad that consisted of slices of heirloom tomatoes topped with buffalo mozz, a homemade spiced fig compote, and little bits of crispy bacon. Not sure if it qualifies as "caprese", but it worked pretty darn well.

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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Dale Williams » Thu Oct 11, 2012 5:39 pm

as there was talk of buffalo mozz in this thread:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/magaz ... f=magazine
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Re: Let's talk about caprese

Postby Jenise » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:20 pm

Thanks, Dale, really enjoyed that--can't say I'm as devoted as the writer (perhaps only because I would seem to have broader tastes than he does) but my god do I love this cheese. So much so, I remember the exact restaurant I was in when I saw a caprese salad on the menu and ordered it--never heard of it before, had no idea what mozzarella bufala even was--and finding the experience positively life-changing. Because of that I remember the second restaurant I ordered it at, too, and then calling every Italian deli in the book trying to locate some locally so I could feed my brand new addiction without taking out a second mortgage.
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