It may seem counterintuitive to serve caprese salad in the winter, as summer is famous for its tomato bounty. Good tomatoes, however, can still be found. You just have to know what to look for. Shun the hard, pinkish, artificially-ripened paperweights in favor of big, heavy beefsteaks or smaller “on the vine” tomatoes, then ripen them yourself. Now don’t tell anyone how we got tender, sweet tomatoes in November: we left them on a sunny windowsill for a few days. These won’t compare to your Green Zebras, Early Girls and Brandywines, but they will enable you to make an out-of-season dish your dinner guests have probably been craving since Labor Day.
Smoked mozzarella is key here — its wood-and-ash aroma and denser texture will complement the herbal note of the fresh basil and natural sweetness you successfully coaxed out of the tomatoes. A light dusting of smoked sea salt and a drizzle of the best olive oil you can get your hands on (now is definitely the time to break it out) makes a pleasantly light starter to what we can only assume will be a hearty winter meal.
- 8 ounces (1 ball) smoked mozzarella, thickly sliced
- 2 medium ripe beefsteak tomatoes (or 4-6 on the vine), thickly sliced
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- high-quality extra virgin olive oil
- smoked sea salt
- crusty Italian bread, for serving
- Remove largest basil leaves at the base of the stem.
- Rinse basil leaves and gently pat dry with a paper towel.
- Arrange ingredients on a serving platter in the following order: 1 slice smoked mozzarella, 1-2 basil leaves and 1-2 slice tomato (depending on size).
- Repeat until all ingredients are used.
- Drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil.
- Sprinkle with smoked sea salt and serve at room temperature with crusty Italian bread.