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Author Notes: A good Caprese deserves nothing less than the best that summer can offer up. Cheerful little cherry tomatoes are perfect for it. In order to deepen their flavor concentration, we roasted them whole with some torn basil leaves, several cloves of smashed garlic, a couple of generous glugs of good olive oil, and some simple seasonings. Once cooled, in went cubes of fresh buffalo mozzarella. We served it over a nest of fresh basil leaves and scooped it up with grilled focaccia. Toast an August evening with a bright, crisp Riesling.
The Caprese travels well with others, and only gets better the longer its flavors blend.
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, mixed colors if possible
- 12 garlic cloves smashed, peels removed
- 15-20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half if large
- 2 to 3 ounces good, fruity olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
- A few grinds of pepper
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella, 1/2" cubes
- 1 loaf focaccia sliced in long batons 1/4 " wide http://www.food52.com/recipes/12903_focaccia
- Olive oil for focaccia, if necessary
- Lots of fresh basil leaves as a bed for the Caprese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Rinse tomatoes and drain them. Leave whole and toss them into a shallow casserole dish. Add the smashed garlic cloves and basil leaves. Pour in the olive oil and add the seasonings. Stir to coat everything with olive oil. Place in oven uncovered. Roast until tomatoes, garlic, and basil are all nicely caramelized, and the tomato juices have reduced to almost a syrupy consistency, probably a good 30-40 minutes. While roasting, stir now and then. Meanwhile, drain the mozzarella balls if necessary, and cut them into 1/2" cubes.
- When done, remove tomato mixture from oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Don't be afraid to stick the baking sheet into the fridge to move things along. Add the mozzarella cubes and stir to blend everything beautifully together. Let flavors blend while you slice and grill the focaccia.
- I make my own focaccia (http://www.food52.com/recipes/12903_focaccia), so I know it has plenty of olive oil both in and on it. If you're using one you've purchased, you may want to brush the cut sides with olive oil before you grill it. It's easier to handle long strips of it than shorter pieces during the grilling phase. You can certainly use the oven broiler to toast it, but it's so much better done over a barbecue, or even a campfire. Grill or toast both sides to a deep golden brown and good crispness - you don't want it going soggy under that heavenly Caprese. When done, break into pieces about 3" long.
- Arrange a comfortable bed of fresh basil leaves in the center of a serving platter. Pour Caprese out onto it. Arrange pieces of grilled focaccia around the edge. Pour glasses of your favorite wine and toast to good summer food.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Cherry Tomatoes
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Picnic Dish