Sneak Sweet Flavors Into Your Caprese Salad With Juicy Stone Fruits

Unless you live in Capri, where the recipe originated, the traditional tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad, Caprese is at its best for only a few short months in summer when tomatoes are in season. Although there are ways, like Giada De Laurentiis' tomato tip, to sweeten 'meh' tasting fruit, adding the season's juicy stone fruits is a simple method to make the salad flavorful.

Like any dish, using the best-quality ingredients, especially one with few components, is essential. Beginning in May with apricots, late spring ushers in months of full-flavored peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, and pluots. Keep in mind that mangoes, blackberries, raspberries, and dates are also considered stone fruits, so there are many textures and tastes to choose from. This is an excellent opportunity to try unfamiliar varieties available at local farmer's markets, like Italian plums, which is fitting. 

Aside from balancing proportions, this type of salad doesn't require a recipe. To prepare a starter course for six people, you'll need a combination of tomatoes and the juiciest, most fragrant stone fruit you can find, roughly two pounds (that's about three or four hefty pieces of fruit, or more if they're on the smaller side). Pair the pitted fruit with eight ounces of soft cheese, like mozzarella, but don't limit yourself to the usual suspects. Our tomato and peach salad with goat cheese is a modern twist on the classic recipe, combining sweet fruit and tangy, salty cheese. Other options would be burrata, ricotta, smoked mozzarella, or feta.

Tips for preparing a Caprese salad with stone fruit

A memorable salad is multidimensional, with layers of contrasting textures, colors, and flavors. It doesn't need to be fussy, but it should be delicious. Give yourself enough time to prepare the salad and let it rest, so the fruit can release its juices before you serve it. Sprinkle sea salt on sliced or halved tomatoes and, if necessary, a pinch of sugar on the stone fruit. Within a few minutes, their juices will pool on your platter, which, along with fruity olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar, is all you need to dress the salad.

The dish can be assembled formally or rustically — dealer's choice. Unlike a green salad, which can be tossed into a bowl, a large white platter is ideal for either presentation, so guests can appreciate the beautiful food — it'll make it taste better, too. For a fancier display, cut all the ingredients into similar-sized slices and layer them in rows on the platter, tucking in fresh basil leaves. This more formal approach is preferred by Ina Garten, who shared a tip for fixing messy Caprese salads. 

For a rustic presentation, vary the size, color, and shape of the components. Try an updated version of our heirloom tomato and burrata Caprese salad by scattering yellow grape tomatoes and slices of plums around fresh burrata. Tear open the cheese to let its milky juices mingle with the fruit to add more flavor and depth to the dressing. 

More Caprese salad ideas

Now that we've got you thinking outside the box, let's discuss other ways to sweeten and enhance Caprese salads. Strawberries and melons are additional options that share the same season. Keep the watermelon for feta salads, and select a melon with lower water content, so it won't dilute the flavor of your dressing.

Consider small local varieties of honeydew, cantaloupe, or Crenshaw and prepare them similarly to the other fruit. Alternatively, use small cookie cutters to cut out shapes like stars for the holidays. Unfortunately, seasonal fruit doesn't always taste as promised, so try Giada De Laurentiis' grilling hack to coax out their natural sugars.

For a salty element, tear thin slices of prosciutto, Genoa salami, or spicy coppa and nestle them between the fruit. To add texture, bake the cured meat until crispy and break off shards to use as umami sprinkles. Or, to keep it vegetarian, garnish the dish with Marcona almonds, another nut, or seeds.

In addition to serving the salad on a platter, consider where you are serving the dish. If you are having an outdoor party where guests will be walking around while eating, try building the salad on a skewer, so no one has to put their drink down. The ingredients can also be diced and added to toasted bread to make our bruschetta Caprese salad recipe. Tip: Prepare the ingredients like a chopped salad, so every bite has something salty, sweet, crunchy, and creamy.