One can never eat enough of summer's sun kissed garden ripe tomatoes and no recipe stands out more than the classic Italian preparation of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, a.k.a. "Insalata Caprese." These small caprese stacks are always a welcome riff on the ubiquitous summer salad when tomatoes are bursting with vine-ripened flavor and mozzarella di bufala (water buffalo mozzarella) is available fresh. While traditional recipes skip the balsamic vinegar, it is a delightful plate garnish that grilled bread enjoys mopping up. As with all limited ingredient recipes, quality matters and the result is only as good as the provisions used in the recipe: aged, almost syrupy, Modena balsamic vinegar and a high quality Italian olive oil such as Il Boschetto Limited Selection Extra Virgin Olive Oil provide the perfect backdrop for the creamy mozzarella and juicy at-their-peak tomatoes.
Nota bene: A trick to making these Caprese stacks stand upright is to cut the bottom piece of the tomato slightly larger than the other two. You can also slice a bit off the bottom so it is flat and sits nicely on the plate. Also a delicious treat for those “off tomato season” months when only small greenhouse grown tomatoes have any taste at all.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
8 vine-ripe tomatoes, cut horizontally into three slices
Fresh mozzarella di bufala (water buffalo mozzarella), sliced and then cut into circles the same size as the tomato
16 basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil (a high quality finishing EVO)
Maldon sea salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1. To make the balsamic glaze: bring 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar to a boil on the stove top, and then reduce to low. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced to half its volume.
2. Place the bottom piece of a tomato on a plate and top it with a slice of mozzarella and a basil leaf. Season with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Keep layering until you have reformed each tomato ending with the stemmed cap.
3. Drizzle a small bit of the balsamic glaze on the plate and drizzle olive oil over the top of each Caprese stack.