Posts Tagged ‘Caprese Salad’

Roasted Tomatoes: A Remedy for an Out-of-Season Craving

January 14, 2009

A Winterized Caprese Salad with Roasted Roma Tomatoes

A Winterized Caprese Salad with Roasted Roma Tomatoes

We always want what we can’t have. For some, that may mean wanting to drive a Ferrari, rather than a Honda, and for others, wanting the latest designer handbag rather than the knock-off sold on the street. Believe me, I have wasted my fair share of money on several pleather “Prato’s” from the corner of 17th and 5th, but notwithstanding, my wants and cravings are generally food related. I remember being quite young and sick with the flu and craving a huge chocolate milkshake, despite exhibiting all of the traditional flu-like symptoms. Today, while I may have learned to curb unrealistic cravings while sick, I find myself craving and wanting certain types of fruits and vegetables that are out of season – like a juicy heirloom tomato in January.

It has been unseasonably warm in Pasadena recently (unseasonably warm for me – perhaps 80 degree weather is normal in January, but I haven’t quite accepted that yet), and as a result of this weather, I have started craving summer produce and summer dishes. The other day I had a tremendous hankering for a Caprese salad. During the late summer months when tomatoes are peaking in their season, there are few things finer than a plate of big juicy tomatoes smothered with fresh basil and mozzarella. Mmmm….I can almost taste the acidity of the balsamic vinegar….. Unfortunately, and contrary to what the sunny and warm whether seems to be telling my palate, we are in January, not July, and those beautiful heirloom tomatoes are just not around.

Knowing full well that my desire for a traditional Caprese salad was next to impossible to have, I decided to make a winterized Caprese salad. Although grocery stores always carry tomatoes year-round, I rarely buy tomatoes in the winter because they are no where as flavorful as a tomato that is fresh, local and in season. The tomatoes at my grocery store this time of year – even in sunny California – are a few shades lighter than the deep red we see during the summer and early fall months, they are generally harder, and they always lack a lot of flavor. Why wouldn’t they – they have been sitting on a boat, a truck and a pallet in the back of your local grocery store for days.

Despite a January tomato’s bleakness, I have discovered that they are not completely useless and flavorless, and actually, can be quite tasty and satisfying with the right preparation. Roasting tomatoes, for example, really brings out a winter tomato’s flavor and tenderizes the tomato while it is roasting. For my winter Caprese salad, I roasted Roma tomatoes coated in extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

After a few attempts at roasting tomatoes, yes a few attempts, I had tomatoes that were full of flavor and very juicy. I will let the pictures below tell the story, but Roma tomatoes roast best in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. After the tomatoes have finished roasting, let them cool completely before tossing them with mozzarella, basil and your favorite balsamic dressing. A winterized Caprese may not be an exact remedy for your out-of-season cravings, but roasting winter tomatoes is certainly one way of satisfying what we can’t always have…especially in January.

Until next time…

Tomatoes Roasted for 15 Minutes Too Long

Roasted Tomatoes Take 1: Tomatoes Roasted for 15 Minutes Too Long

Too High of Heat

Roasted Roma Tomatoes Take 2: Too High of Heat



October 24, 2008

The phrase “Drill Baby Drill” may be on some minds recently, but not on mine. I’m chanting, COOK BABY COOK! I have been feeling so inspired to cook recently and have been loving the preparation of putting together a quick and simple week night meal or a more elaborate Sunday night dinner. I have a few ideas as to the genesis of this inspiration – it may be my proximity to great southern California produce, or perhaps all the free time I have as I am unemployed, or it could be the windfall of culinary gadgets my husband and I received for our wedding. Selfishly speaking, one of the best things about getting married – aside from George, of course, is the wedding registry.

The concept of a wedding registry was first developed in 1924 by the Marshall Fields department store in Chicago. At that time, the concept of a wedding registry was limited one; it was a means for engaged couples to share their selected china and silver with their guests. Today, a wedding registry is the “super-sized” version of the 1924 model. Registries today provide engaged couples with a carte-blanche to request anything and everything relating to the kitchen – from food processors, to everyday flatware, or to a pink silicon spoonula. It is also customary to register for bedroom items like new linens or blankets, or even bathroom essentials like towels and shower curtains. And while the registry was originally thought of as a means for couples to ask for a few nicer items for the home, it would not be uncommon to see an engaged couple today registering for a honeymoon or a flat-screen plasma TV.

Although my wedding registry did not include home electronics (to George’s dismay) or a trip around the world, we did register for everything for the kitchen, except for the kitchen sink, of course! What started as a culinary fantasy became a culinary reality thanks to our very gracious friends and family. We now have wonderful kitchen tools like a pasta maker, roasting pans, beautiful serving platters, and the pièce de résistance – fabulously sharp knives (no pun intended, but I know firsthand…I already had a cooking calamity and lost my index finger’s finger nail….).

As I have been trying to test out all my new tools and utensils, I had an idea for a Caprese salad, which not only allowed me to break out my new food processor, but take advantage of the beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the local farmers’ markets. When tomatoes and basil are in season, there are few things better than a traditional Caprese. Gorgeous tomatoes layered between sliced mozzarella and fresh basil…seriously, what more could you want? Well, how about a little bit of basil in each bite?

A Stacked Caprese

A Stacked Caprese

My twist on the traditional Caprese is two-fold: first, I prefer a stacked Caprese – mainly for aesthetics; and second, and most important, I infuse basil throughout my Caprese by using it in a dressing, rather than placing it haphazardly on the salad. Using my new food processor, I made a dressing for my Caprese that resembled a pesto. I begin my chopping one whole garlic clove and several handfuls of basil. To that, I add the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper to season and enough olive oil to thin the mixture into a salad dressing. I find that the fresh lemon juice really pops the basil flavor, which in the affectation of the Oprah–yodel, makes the dressing fabuLOUSSSS….

I simply pour a few teaspoons of my basil dressing over my stacked Caprese and enjoy. This salad could be served as a side dish to grilled fish, chicken, or steak, or could even be served on its own as a first course. Either way, it is a refreshing, seasonal twist, on a traditional Caprese, which could not be accomplished without my new food processor! And with that, COOK BABY COOK!

Until next time…