Normally served as an antipasto, this Neapolitan classic named after the island of Capri is loved the world over for its simplicity and freshness. It's even become a symbol of Italian cuisine thanks to its color palate, which mimicks the Italian flag.
Thick slices of tomato are interwoven with slices of fresh mozzarella (buffalo if you can) and fresh basil or oregano. Dressed only in some extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, it goes without saying that this is a dish that calls for good ingredients -- Seek out proper balls of mozzarella, weighty and as juicy as the tomatoes themselves. Perfectly ripe, sweet, summer tomatoes are a must. Try something like a beefsteak tomato or costoluto, a large ribbed tomato said to be one of the oldest varieties around. Both make great salad tomatoes, as do oblong plum tomatoes like Roma or San Marzano varieties. It goes without saying that you should go, of course, for a very good extra virgin olive oil: one that is fresh and zingy and hopefully hasn't been hanging around the pantry for too long.
This is barely a recipe, but there are a few tricks that you can use to make this simple salad stand out:
If you have time, try “marinating” the tomato slices in a good pinch of salt and the olive oil an hour or so before serving. The salt draws the water out of the tomatoes, producing a delicious juicy liquid. Combine this juice with the olive oil in a small jar and shake to make an emulsion – it will be the most perfect dressing for this salad.
Use buffalo mozzarella. A good ball of fresh mozzarella weeps a milky liquid when cut, which will then slowly gather in the bottom of the dish, seeping into the dressing and making it well worth having a few slices of crusty fresh bread to mop it all up.
Also, don't be shy with the olive oil. When you think you have added enough, go for a splash more right before serving.
If you don't have time for marinating, simply skip that part and dress with extra virgin olive oil and the salt -- it is all delicious. —Emiko
4 as part of an antipasto
large, ripe tomatoes
balls of fresh buffalo mozzarella
extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Generous pinch of salt
Handful of fresh oregano or basil leaves, torn if large
Slice the tomatoes into 1/3 inch-thick slices and place in a bowl with the salt and olive oil. Leave to marinate for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour. (If you don't have the time, you can skip this step, and simply dress the mozzarella and tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper.)
Strain the tomatoes, pouring off the juice into a small jar. Shake to create an emulsion.
Slice the mozzarella the same thickness as the tomato and place a layer of tomato slices, alternating with mozzarella slices, on a serving dish. Pour over the tomato emulsion, scatter the fresh herbs, finish with a good drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and serve.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.