Meatless Monday: Caprese Salad

Today’s Meatless Monday dish is more about the ingredients than it is about the recipe. Actually, there really is no recipe, so it’s totally about the ingredients.

In the past few weeks, Caprese Salads have become a standard dish around our house. Besides the fact that they make for a nice light lunch on days when it has been so blazing hot, they’re easy to throw together in a matter of minutes, and I tend to keep all of the ingredients on hand.

I’m a purist when it comes to this dish. I don’t need any fancy extras, just the basics: a really good olive oil, tomatoes just plucked from the garden, fresh mozzarella, basil, some salt and fresh ground pepper. Since I’m not dressing it up with anything, the ingredients need to be of the highest quality. Here’s how I ensure that:

Tomatoes– These have been coming straight from my boss’ garden in Franklin. Big, red, juicy tomatoes that are bursting with flavor. You cannot buy hot-house grown tomatoes at the grocery store and expect to get good results. If you don’t have your own tomatoes growing in the backyard or a friend that shares with you, then head to the nearest farmers’ market. It’s the only way. Trust me.

Basil – This comes from my own herb garden and it’s in abundance at the moment. It is such a satisfying feeling to be able to walk out the door at any given moment and clip some fresh herbs. Currently, in addition to the basil I have chives, parsley, tarragon, oregano, mint, and lavender. If you aren’t already growing your own, take my advice and do it. Even if you live in an apartment or condo with no yard you can – all it takes are a few pots! I guarantee it’ll make you happy.

Olive Oil– Since I took an olive oil techniques class last year, I’ve become pretty picky about which brands I use. Pacific Sun Olive Oil sent me some of their award winning Tehama County Blend to sample a few weeks back and I was impressed. It passed the “Beth Test” and even though it can only be ordered online, it will become a regular in my pantry. If you need convincing that you shouldn’t be buying mass produced, big name brands at your local mass merchant or chain store, check out this recent story on bogus oils.

Mozzarella – This has got to be fresh! I’ve been purchasing AtlantaFresh Artisan Creamery cheese from The Bloomy Rind lately. In case you don’t know, Kathleen has taken the ‘Rind mobile as of late. She’s now setting up in both the East and West sides of town on various nights of the week, so follow her on Twitter or Facebook for dates, times, and locations.

So there you go. That’s where my Caprese Salad ingredients come from. After I’ve gathered everything together, I just slice up my tomatoes and mozzarella, assemble them on a plate (stacked or fanned), drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then chop and toss on the basil. Simplicity.

If you’d like to jazz yours up with some other flavors, I suggest this recipe over at Love and Olive Oil. I’m quite sure if you follow the steps for either of these preparations, it will put a smile on your face, and that’s the ultimate goal, right?