The only salad that matters right now
August 11th, 2011
09:15 AM ET
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Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat.

You're clicking around on the internet, so you're probably not eating a Caprese salad right now. That's too bad. Let's fix it.

Yes, it's summertime and plenty of fresh vegetables are in season and surely salad-worthy. Fine. No one ever said a grown man or woman couldn't have two (2) separate and unrelated salads at a meal. Just make sure one of them doesn't have any basil, mozzarella or tomatoes in it, because you'll need all of that for this dish.

If you're feeling all orderly and patient and whatnot, grab a few really luscious tomatoes – heirloom if you've got 'em. Go wacky and try some orange, yellow, white, purple or even dark, bloody, Goth-looking varieties. Slice them thickly and sprinkle lightly with kosher or sea salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

Stack the tomato with slices of fresh (not pre-shredded, not waxy, not packaged as "pizza cheese") mozzarella, layer on a few fresh basil leaves and anoint with the nicest olive oil you can get your paws on. Flick the whole mess with a bit of balsamic vinegar if you so desire, cover and let the flavors meld for anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours, then serve.

You could indeed pop your Insalata Caprese in the fridge while you're waiting if you're feeling weird about leaving cheese out, but that's your call. If you do, just make sure to bring it back down to room temperature. No one likes stiff cheese.

If you'd care to get a tad more rambunctious with your Caprese making, sidestep the stacking. Cut the tomatoes and rip the mozzarella into ragged chunks and place them in a bowl. Tear the basil leaves, or take a few extra seconds to stack a few, roll them tightly and chop across the bundle to make delicate ribbons.

Look at you! You just did a fancy chiffonade without breaking a sweat. Make sure you mention that to any guests with whom you may be sharing your bounty.

Scatter the basil atop the tomatoes and cheese, and toss it all with olive oil and the chunkiest salt you can muster. Let it loll in the bowl as long as you can stand it, and then shovel that salad into your mouth like a hungry bear.

You may also show a modicum of restraint and drizzle some thick bread in olive oil, toast it on a griddle or in a 450°F oven, score it with a knife, rub some garlic all over one side and slop a bunch of that salad over top. Now, you're a highfalutin Caprese bruschetta maker and should probably have your own daytime cooking show where you ride around Campania on a Vespa and say "Ciao!" to people and chiffonade things.

And that's the chow you should have right now.

Previously - The best sandwich in the universe – at least for the month of August and Heirloom tomatoes, explained and You really should be putting tomatoes in your drinks

See all our best grilling advice at Grilling 101



soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. HomeGrownDude

    If I planted nothing else in my small garden each year but 5 or 6 sweet basil plants & a few varieties of heirloom tomatoes I would be satisfied. I was introduced to Caprese by some hard-core Italian friends as a baguette sandwich (the rubbed garlic is a fantastic idea, I don't know why I never thought to do that). Now I make them myself at least 2-3 times a week when everything is at their peak. I don't spare the balsamic & splurge on some bufala cheese once in a while (there's a noticeable difference). Using Paul Robeson variety heirlooms at the moment & I think they will become the de facto choice for this salad, unbeatable flavor. Caprese crostini is the appetizer of choice if I'm asked to bring a dish to a party.

    September 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  2. chekmarkeats

    Seamus Mullen's new place Tertulia has a great tomato, ricotta and melon salad that looks pretty similar. It's in the West Village.

    August 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  3. Robert

    For those of you who, like me, are allergic to tomatoes, or if you are just looking for a change, you can substitute sliced peaches or nectarines and still have an amazing salad. Also, try other cheeses, such as mozzarella di bufala or sheep's milk ricotta for an interesting salad.

    August 24, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  4. Amayda

    We love this salad in my house...however, we add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the mix. Ruins the eye appeal a little bit as the mozzerella gets a brown hue to it but it is ooooh so delicious!

    August 23, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  5. Martini@Kat

    Thank you so much for this post! I have eaten this salad atleast 3 times since you posted this, and everytime it is so amazing that it doesn't make it out of the bowl I prepared it in. I also took your advice on the crostini made from a baguette, and OMG that is the best mouthful EVER! I could eat this salad for every meal for the rest of my life...Thanks again!

    August 19, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I'm so pleased you liked it! Eat as many as you can right now while tomatoes are so darned good.

      August 19, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  6. nl20051405

    For vegetarians the dish is really attractive.

    August 16, 2011 at 2:09 am |
  7. Sencho

    Ms. Kinsman,

    What's up with the unnecessary hyperbole in your past couple article titles? Just the other day it was "The best sandwich in the universe?", which was quickly followed by "The only salad that matters right now". That's probably a bit too much build-up for a tomato and mayonaisse sandwich and a salad, don't you think?

    August 12, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • Matt

      "That's not your typical blogger hyperbole, it's the truth. "

      August 16, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  8. AvieLayne

    Pair (spelling)

    August 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
  9. AvieLayne

    Pare it with a nice Merlot and enjoy it sitting outside on a lovely summer evening!

    August 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  10. Noxious Sunshine

    Iceberg -is- gross. There's no nutrients, color, or flavor.I'll stick with my romaine, spinach, & arugula thanks...

    That caprese looks amazing though!

    August 12, 2011 at 10:44 am |
  11. lzcobb

    I love a good Caprese salad (and I'll probably make it tonight for dinner), but right now I'm obsessed with beets, goat cheese, basil & walnuts with balsamic glaze. Super easy and deeeeeelicious

    August 12, 2011 at 9:45 am |
  12. mmw590

    I prefer caprese, but what's with the anti-iceberg? Usually for a salad I use romaine or spinach, sometimes roquettebut for sandwiches it is a great way to put a crunch in it without adding calories.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  13. EuphoriCrest

    Ahhh... my favorite meal: Garbage Salad!

    Time to clean out the fridge and pantry. This salad is best with at least 20 ingredients and the best part is that it tastes different each time you make it because the ingredients are never quite the same:

    Essentails:
    Grapes, every fresh vegetable at your disposal, greens, fruit, nuts or sunflower seeds, cheese, pickles, garbanzo beans, topped with sliced hard boiled egg.

    The trick is to get the right mix of sweet & savory, and crunchy & juicy. Enjoy!

    August 12, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  14. diana

    ... i had a feeling the article was gonna focus on my favorite salad. :) how right i was! and i feel better i'm not the only one that eats it the "messy" way. no patience to stack it all fancy-like as the restaurants do. just cut it all up and toss it together. but the eating it at room temp is a great tip that i hadn't known before! yes, cold cheese is not as interesting! must try that.

    August 12, 2011 at 1:30 am |
  15. MedicMax

    I prefer Goat Cheese to mozzarella for a recipe like this.

    August 12, 2011 at 12:59 am |
  16. Andrew

    Have this year round....

    Iceberg wedges? WTF? First, iceberg is tastless. Second, what the HELL is with these damn wedges? Some overpriced restaurants started serving them, and now everyone wants them? Wedges are idiotic, and iceberg is stupid when there are many other, more nutritious and tasteful lettuces out there. Combine them? Yeah – no thanks.

    August 11, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • Southern Woman@Andrew

      Yeah right, and I bet you spit in the skillet to check the temperature.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  17. Lisa

    My daughter, in Florence many years ago, ordered a tomato & cheese salad (per the english translation menu) expecting something like she may have at home.... tossed greens, tomatoes, a sprinkling of feta or something . She got a caprese salad and after the waiter left, said what is THIS? This isn't a salad. I said oh it's called caprese, try it you WILL like. She'd didn't like it, she loved it and wanted one every day. But then again, in our trips to Italy (yes, we are lucky) we have never had a bad meal or snack. They are brilliant with food.

    August 11, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • MBob

      Great story, and was probably a very good learning experience for her to try new things!

      August 11, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • minavaan

      I visit Italy often ( yes, we are very lucky!!). When our daughter graduated college, I took her to Amalfi Coast and Isle of Capri. While staying in Positano for a week, we had our dinners in this lovely restaurant only because they made the best Salata Caprese!! The sliced tomatoes were huge, fresh and juicy, the mozzaralla melted in your mouth, the olive oli, basil, balsamic vinegar...ah, so delicious! We came home and I started making it for dinner almost every night. But I do love a great spinach salad with strawberries with balsamic vinegar, too.

      August 14, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  18. Luny

    Caprese is my favorite salad, hands down, although a nice spinach with fresh strawberries and chunks o'bleu cheese is also good. Makes me hungry just to look at the picture.

    August 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  19. Ronco

    Clearly you have never had fresh mozzarella, don't knock it until you try it

    August 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  20. chest pain

    Mozzarella cheese is horrible. It is rubbery and tastes like chemicals. I don't know how people eat that crap.

    August 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Luny

      You have a problem with your taste buds, but maybe that's because you're so used to eating processed American cheese that comes in little plastic wrappers.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Lisa

      Don't buy that sliced stuff, the good fresh mozzarella is wonderfully soft and delicious!

      August 11, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • MBob

      Good mozzarella is soft and creamy, you must be buying the crappy processed junk.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • AM

      Sounds like someone who lives on Kraft singles and Velveeta...

      August 12, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • Southern Woman@chest pain

      And you probably think dingle berries are a fruit.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:58 am |
  21. les

    August = local tomatoes in NE – it's heaven

    August 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  22. Minny Hockey

    I love tuna

    August 11, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
    • B!ll Clinton

      Me too!

      August 11, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
    • MBob

      I had a nicoise for lunch today, so delicious. I could eat salads for (almost) every meal.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  23. NicM

    Put the leftovers on some Italian bread and you've got an amazing sandwich.

    August 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • Anastacia

      @NicM, or a warm fresh pita! preferably homemade

      August 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
      • Luny

        That sounds wonderful.

        August 11, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  24. me

    Love salad!

    August 11, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  25. J.J.

    Spinach with fresh mushrooms and green onions – touch of sweet bacon dressing – yum yum!!

    August 11, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Anastacia

      @J.J. that sounds so good, can I add a little blackened chicken too?

      August 11, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Luny

      Men's Health had a recipe for a spinach salad with shrimp, red onions and mushrooms cooked in bacon fat. The dressing is wine vinegar and dijon mustard thrown into the leftover fat. To Die For.

      Bacon – food of the gods.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
      • MBob

        That sounds amazing! Im going to have to give it a try, om nom nom.

        August 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
      • AM

        Bacon = cancer. Plus it's a slaughtered animal. No thanks.

        August 11, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
      • Southern Woman@AM

        Great, another vegan that thinks virgin wool comes from ugly sheep.

        August 12, 2011 at 10:02 am |
  26. Delana

    My favorite salad right now is arugula, goat cheese, kalamata olives, fresh beautiful tomatoes, sliced squash and one of Krafts virgin olive oil salad dressings. Sometime I add apple, egg, peach, cucumber, etc. But I love arugula! Great writing, makes me laugh!

    August 11, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  27. applejax

    Drooling.....is it wrong to lick the screen? Love caprese salad, made myself for a dinner party – the stacked version- will different coloured hierloom tomatoes, rounds of panchetta and buffalo mozzarella! Thanks for noting FRESH cheese and not that rubbery ball used for pizza, would completely ruin a good thing....love this article!!

    August 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      The picture was from my cell phone! Seriously - the tomatoes are just that pretty. I'm in my garden every morning right now, willing the green ones to ripen.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
      • Jessie

        Wow you've got a great cell phone camera! As others have said, love the piece, and your wording! It was a funny read, and now I will be heading to the grocery store on my way home to get the ingredients to make this for dinner tonight! I have never tried before! Thank you! :)

        August 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  28. Tiffany

    I just indulged in another summer salad – tomato cucumber. I do love the summer salads. And I love that Eatocracy supports the love of seasonal eating.

    August 11, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
  29. empress

    My mouth is taking turns drooling and giggling (probably more drooling) throughout the whole of this article - I'm going home tonight and make this salad ALL for myself!! YUMMMM!!!

    August 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  30. Traci

    Just want to thank you for the perfectly irreverant and witty writing on this piece - made me smile all the way through and chuckle out loud at the "chiffonade things" line at the end. As refreshing as the salad you've so beautifully illustrated. Brava!

    August 11, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Thank you! You totally just made my day!

      August 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
      • Kat is all Dat

        Marry me?

        August 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  31. Bb

    The only salad that matters is the one I can toss...

    August 11, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Phreeze

      You can toss my salad...

      August 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  32. palval

    Sounds scrumptious ( and is) but for hot summer days, there's nothing quite like a wedge of iceberg...very cold. Sharp creamy dressing and a little glass of chilled white...yum. Nice to see iceberg is making a comeback after many years of disgrace.

    August 11, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Luny

      Sorry, but iceberg is just tasteless. My dog will eat everything including romaine lettuce and cabbage walks away from iceberg.

      August 11, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
      • Lisa

        Totally agree.... anything BUT iceberg. I like my romaine and spinach

        August 11, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • MBob

      I too enjoy a nice wedge salad! I love all types of greens and even the much maligned iceburg has a place in my fridge. Iceburg, some good bleu cheese, real bacon and a few tomatoes. Yum!

      August 11, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  33. Dizzythecat

    Never, ever, EVER put a fresh tomato in the fridge.
    The cold kills the flavor.
    Yikes.

    August 11, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • shibbygirl

      I never knew that!!! thank you!

      August 11, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  34. WheePig

    Scorpacciata is a term that means PIG OUT!

    August 11, 2011 at 7:52 am |
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