It was the end of a very long day after a run of even longer days. I was in Milan acting as the food and beverage manager for an Olympic Games hospitality program. It was my first contract as an independent event planner and I felt on top of the world. Sure, my feet were tired, my head hurt from all the hustle and bustle, but I didn’t have a care in the world. I had one job to do. To ensure our guests had exceptional food and beverage experiences every step of the way on their personalized Olympic Games journey.
That night, I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, exhausted, clicking through the channels on a little TV that was perched on top of a dark wood dresser. Of course, every program was in Italian so trying to find a show to watch was really an exercise in futility. I had a rare night off and, caught up in the energy and excitement of the Games, I was so excited and wasn’t able to catch up on needed rest so I went for a run on the hotel’s one treadmill in a tiny exercise room with a low ceiling and mirrored walls on the top floor of the hotel and finally started to settle into the rare downtime.
Back in the room (already well past 10pm), post run, feeling less hyper and more at ease, I picked up the phone, fumbled my way through the few Italian words (mainly food-related) I knew and ended up ordering a caprese salad and a Coca-Cola from the kitchen. When it arrived at my door, I sat on the bed in my white hotel robe and devoured the salad, enjoying every bite like I was experiencing the dish for the first time.
Sure, I was in Italy so maybe everything just tasted better, but I remember the tomatoes being the perfect ripeness, the whole basil leaves gorgeously bright green and the cheese thickly sliced (not skimpy) all drenched in a slightly spicy freshly pressed olive oil with just the right amount of crunchy crystalized sea salt.
The ice cold and super sweet bottle of Coca-Cola (wine would have worked if it wasn’t only hours before I needed to get up again for another Olympic-sized day of work) washed everything down sublimely.
The Caprese Salad has and always will be one of my favourite dishes to eat ever. Hands down. Now here’s the weird thing. I don’t like fresh tomatoes. Never have. Sure, I love the idea of them and I love to grow them in my vegetable garden, but there’s something about the texture and flavour I’m not a fan of. Until you add fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, good olive oil and salt. Something MAGIC happens. The combination works so well and no matter where I am, enjoying a caprese salad is one of my life’s greatest pleasures. To me, this dish is pure and simple happiness.
Originally, the recipe was created as an ode to Italy as reflected in the tri-colour combination of the recipe’s ingredients – red, green and white – the three colours of the Italian flag. Additions to the recipe happen, from pesto to balsamic vinegar. But for me, I’m more of a purist when it comes to this salad and prefer not adding anything on top. That being said, the acidity and sweetness from balsamic isn’t a bad thing, I just prefer it without. I’d avoid pesto and let the fresh basil stand out unadulterated.
So try this recipe for the first time and make your own incredible memories or revisit it, closing your eyes as you enjoy every last bite transporting you back to your own happy memories of enjoying this recipe. Wherever you were at the time. Saluti! Trevor
4 vine-ripened tomatoes
2 large balls of fresh mozzarella
8 to 10 large basil leaves
Salt (preferably Maldon)
Extra virgin olive oil
Admittedly these directions aren’t rigid. Everyone has their own style when it comes to making this salad and sometimes our style changes depending on our mood. We like the mozzarella sliced most of the time, but sometimes it’s fun to tear off chunks and serve the salad more rustic, etc.
- Slice tomatoes into ½” slices
- Slice fresh mozzarella into ½” slices (or tear into chunks)
- Roughly chop basil leaves (or leave whole)
- Layer ingredients onto plate (tomato slices, basil, cheese, repeat)
- Salt generously
- Drizzle (or drench) with olive oil
Recipe created by Gluggable.