Monday, July 19, 2010

Meatless Monday - Caprese Salad

Even with the extremely hot and dry weather we've been having in Baltimore, our herb garden is growing like gangbusters and our tomato plants are thriving as well. What to do with too much basil and lots of green tomatoes?

Make a Caprese salad.

Rather than the traditional version with slices of ripe tomato, soft mozzarella, and basil leaves dressed with olive oil, I made a fancier version with fried tomatoes and pesto. In addition to the green ones in our garden, we also had inherited a couple of pallid "ripe" supermarket tomatoes that wouldn't be flavorful enough to eat raw. They worked well enough when fried, although they were much softer than the green ones so I had to take care not to make a mess while transferring them from pan to plate.

Also, I coated the tomatoes in Progresso Italian bread crumbs, a flavor from my childhood. This is all my mother ever used, so nothing else tastes "right" to me.


Caprese Stack

Pesto (recipe follows)
Fried Tomatoes (recipe follows)
1 - 2 large balls fresh mozzarella
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh basil leaves

Slice cheese into 1/3" - 1/2" thick slices (depending on the size of your tomato slices). Put vinegar and oil into a small bowl and beat with a fork to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place a small dollop of pesto in the center of a serving plate. Top with a fried tomato, a slice of cheese and more pesto. Repeat layers once more. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette on and around the stack and garnish with the basil.

Serves 2-6 depending on how many slices of tomato you sneak while you're frying them up. :)

Pesto

2 large cloves of garlic or one enormous clove (as I had), coarsely chopped
1 good handful of nuts of your choice (I used cashews and pecans)
A small handful grated Parmesan cheese
About 3 cups of fresh basil leaves (I used a mix of spicy globe, Thai, and sweet)
About 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Place garlic, nuts, cheese, and basil in the bowl of a food processor (I used a Cuisinart Mini Prep). Drizzle in some of the olive oil and blend. Continue adding oil and blending until desired consistency is achieved. I like mine to have a little bit of texture. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Fried Tomatoes

4 medium-sized green tomatoes (can also use ripe tomatoes)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
1 + cups Progresso Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 + cups canola oil

Cut each tomato into 3 or 4 1/3" - 1/2" slices, discarding the curved tops and bottoms.

Prepare coating: in one bowl, season flour with salt and pepper. Put egg and milk combo in a second bowl. Place bread crumbs into a third bowl.

Dredge each slice of tomato in flour, shake off excess, and dip in egg. Let excess egg drip off and finally coat tomato in breadcrumbs. As you prepare each slice, arrange them on a plate. You may need to add more breadcrumbs to the third bowl.

Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet. When it's hot, fry tomatoes in 2 or 3 batches until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Add extra oil in between batches if necessary. Transfer tomatoes to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle a bit of salt on each slice while they're still hot.