Exceptional ingredients treated simply – for me this is the essence of what makes Italian one of the world’s greatest cuisines. They just get it.
Take caprese salad. In its simplest form, it’s just ripe red tomatoes bursting with the flavours of the sun, creamy fresh mozzarella, pungent basil and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. On a trip to Italy some years ago, I feasted on it at every opportunity. Another great favourite was their tiny crostinis topped with diced tomatoes – sit down for a meal in any halfway decent ristorante, and these bite-sized morsels of pure pleasure invariably appear on the table along with the first glass of wine.
It was thinking of these two treats that inspired this recipe. It gets all the ingredients of a traditional caprese salad plus some elements from panzanella, a traditional Tuscan salad which incroporates cubes of ciabatta.
Unlike with a normal panzanella, I toasted the bread to be crostini-crisp, then rubbed it with some eat.art Italian caprese spice mix. They’re divine on their own as a nibble with a glass of wine. Added to a salad, they’re a lovely crunchy counterfoil to juicy tomatoes and soft mozzarella.
extra virgin olive oil
eat.art Italian caprese spice mix
fresh mozzarella (the one in water)
baby gem lettuce
Slice the ciabatta any way you like – traditionally the bread in panzanella is cubed, but I prefer the elegance of slices. Place the bread on an oven tray and drizzle with olive oil. (TIP: The best way to get an even oil coating, is to dab it on with a pastry brush instead of pouring it.) Bake the bread at 150 degrees Celsius until it is golden and crisp. The thicker you cut it, the longer this will take. Add spice mix and rub in lightly. Plate up the salad and bread on a large platter, sprinkle very lightly with more eat.art caprese mix, drizzle with olive oil and a touch of balsamic and tuck in.
Written by: Lizet Hartley
Lizet Hartley is a freelance stills and reel food stylist, food photographer and recipe developer. In her spare time she – rather predictably – cooks. Get more of her recipes on her blog at http://www.melkkos-merlot.co.za