Flexible Food Files: Edition Caprese Salad

I’m not the type of person who even remotely enjoys taking out a suite of measuring cups and spoons to create a precise recipe.  Rather than a realist chef, I’m more of an abstract artist who can’t handle being bound by rules or convention.  (Even my baking is very off the cuff, as you’ll see here.)

The other thing I’ve come to understand as a mother is that cooking requires shopping.  And shopping, alas, requires bringing children to the store.

So here’s the scene:

It’s 4 p.m. on a Friday and my son is about to wake up from his nap.  I get an invitation from friends to bring “appetizers or antipasto” to a party… in two hours.

Now, I don’t subject my friends to unhealthy foods but I also don’t have the moolah to grab prepared foods from Whole Foods.  So I open my fridge and get creative.  It never fails me; the creativity, that is.

One of my favorite foods to bring to a party is Caprese Salad.  I almost always have ingredients to do a relatively traditional Caprese on-hand.  This includes:

  •  Tomatoes
  • Bocconcini (fresh mozzarella you find either sliced or in a log.  It traditionally comes from buffalo milk.)
  • Basil
  • EVOO & Balsamic, salt & pepper

For some time, you found Caprese Salad on nearly every restaurant menu on the planet.

But it gets pretty redundant.

Basically, with a log of fresh mozzarella on-hand, you can take this recipe in a thousand different directions.

Here’s a spin I recently took:


The salad is pretty true to form: Basil, Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, EVOO & Balsamic.  The difference is that I added more vegetables and some protein to the dish because the hosts of the party I would attend are gluten free.  Often the salad comes with toasted bread but I decided it’d be better to add meat and extra vegetables to the dish as opposed to carbs or gluten that they wouldn’t feel good about eating.

I personally love to dunk slices of gooey bread (preferably homemade) into my Caprese (the tomato juices, soft slivers of cheese marinating in Olive Oil, and basil essences make the end of the traditional Caprese the BEST PART!)

However, I love to have the flexibility to not only delight my hosts, but to use what’s in my refrigerator already (in this case salami and cucumbers) to make the dish unique.

What’s more, the dish requires NO COOKING and is delicious in every season.  Just slice your ingredients, throw them on a plate, and voila!

What else can we use in a Caprese?  Red onions. (Be sure to soak them for 10 minutes in water to get rid of their pungency.)  Olives.  Slices of spinach.  Even butternut squash!  Get creative with your Caprese; you may find that it will save you hours of time and hassle when you, like me, get invited to a party last-minute.

Please comment with more ideas for me!


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