If you look up “summer” in the dictionary, you just might see a picture of this fresh, delicious, vibrant salad!
Think about it for a moment. In just a few short months, there’ll be cold winds blowing and, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ll only able to fantasize about…
juicy, summer tomatoes in a hundred hues of red, yellow, gold, purple and green.
How about that sweet, succulent corn, growing tall, lined up like green soldiers as far as far as the eye can scan? And have you noticed it mounded up high at markets, farm stands and local groceries these days? Again, in a no time at all, in a flash, displays like these will be one of those things that only dreams are made of.
And basil! Oh my gosh, my plants are so prolific (the more I trim them, the happier they seem to be) and verdant green right now it’s almost a crime thinking of how I pay two dollars for tiny packets all winter long with limp and grayish-green leaves. You don’t grow your own basil? No worries, you can also find huge bunches these days at most farmer’s markets for super reasonable prices.
See why it’s time NOW to make this vibrant, colorful salad? Summer, to me, is synonymous with a plethora of delicious, fresh salads and Caprese salads are close to the top of my favorite list.
So, what is a Caprese Salad? Strictly speaking, it’s an Italian-inspired salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, ripe, red tomatoes and fresh basil. It’s usually seasoned with just a bit of salt, and good olive oil. In Italy it’s called Insalata Caprese (meaning salad of Capri) and was created to resemble the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green.
I love to add my own twists to Caprese salads, and this time, I definitely veered away from traditional colors.
I couldn’t resist the beautiful produce at a local farm stand and stocked up on tomatoes in varied sizes, shapes and hues of red and gold, and corn so fresh, sweet and plump, I’m sure it hadn’t been long since it left the farmer’s field.
The only other thing I had to pick up was fresh mozzarella. I looked for the tiny little balls, called Fresh Mozzarella Pearls (Walmart usually carries these) as they’re so pretty in a salad like this. They weren’t available at my local market, just round, 4-ounce portions, so I just diced it into bite size pieces. Either one is fine, but if you find the little pearls, snatch them up!
The dressing for my Caprese salad is super simple, just olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, fresh, minced garlic, salt and pepper. For a fun finishing touch and a bit of crunch, I toasted a few pine nuts and sprinkled them over the my salad.
This Fresh Corn and Tomato Caprese Salad is perfect a perfect side for summer parties and potlucks. It also goes well with grilled chicken, pork, steak and seafood. I served it recently with chicken parmesan and it paired nicely. It’s best made within an hour or two of serving.
So, savor the season with this wonderful salad and take a mental picture as you’re enjoying it – you might need it to sustain you through the chilly months ahead!
Love Caprese? Check out a few other ideas for this delicious combination of fresh summer ingredients
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- ½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts**
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 medium size ears fresh corn husked and silk removed
- 3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- 2 medium tomatoes preferably heirloom, halved and sliced in to 1/4 inch slices
- 3 ounces fresh mozzarella diced into 1/4 inch cubes or 3 ounces of Fresh Mozzarella Pearls
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 medium clove garlic finely minced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup small fresh basil leaves if you don't have small leaves, roughly chop enough larger leaves to equal 1/4 cup
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves*** optional
Combine 1/2 teaspoon olive oil with pine nuts and salt in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Stir continuously for 3-4 minutes or until pine nuts turn a pale golden brown. Don't be tempted to walk away as pine nuts can go from pale to burned in a heartbeat. Remove from heat as soon as they are pale golden brown and keep stirring as they will continue to cook off of the heat. After a minute, transfer pine nuts to a plate lined with several thickness of paper towels. Set aside.
Place 2 ears of corn in a gallon size ziplock bag. Add about a teaspoon of water (I just run my hand under the faucet and shake a bit of water into the bag) and seal bag. Place corn in microwave for 4 minutes then carefully remove (it will be hot) and transfer corn from the bag to a plate to cool. Repeat with 2 remaining ears of corn.
When corn is cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs. Discard cobs.
Combine tomatoes, corn and fresh mozzarella in a medium size bowl.
For the dressing combine olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk well.
Add 2-3 tablespoons dressing to tomato/corn mixture and stir gently to combine. Taste and add more dressing and additional kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, if needed
Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and scatter with fresh basil leaves, thyme*** and pine nuts.
* Pine nuts are expensive but add a delicious, gourmet touch to salads, soups, breads, etc. Like any nut they can go rancid if kept at room temperature. I like to store them in the freezer where they'll stay fresh for months.
**Salad can be made 1-2 hours in advance through step 6. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature. When ready to serve, stir gently and scatter with the basil, thyme and pine nuts.
*** If I have thyme, I like to add a sprinkle in addition to the basil, but it's not necessary.