The heat and burn of the sun is working its magic on the garden. To pick tomatoes is to wade into a forest big enough to hide a grown man (albeit a bent-over man), redolent with the stink of tomato foliage and the tang of basil where an unwary footstep has gone awry. To the cat, its a jungle and she is a tiger – stalking between the mighty trunks in search of prey or just curling up in a quiet corner for a snooze with just a glint here and there of green eyes watching from beneath lowered lids.
It has escaped us, this garden. The husband is picking nearly a kilo of tomatoes a day and only the cherry tomatoes are ripe at the moment. Halfway through Summer and we are already deep into a glut and giving away baskets to friends and family, the neighbours and their families, and so forth.
So, what to do when you can’t give them away? Well, I’ve been making fresh salsas and boiling batches of plain tomato sugo (so good for pasta). There have been a lot of salads. The best of them, I’ve discovered, is the one that uses the most amount of tomatoes.
Insalata di Caprese. Salad in the style of Capri.
I’ve no idea if this salad actually originated on or even near the island of Capri. Probably not at all, given the usual penchant for impromptu invention that recipes seem to develop. However, I am deeply grateful that someone came up with it because it has turned into a favourite of mine and it has become for me a true taste of Summer that I shall cherish, particularly through the colder months where there is no jungle of rampaging tomatoes to store sunshine for me.
The recipe, if you can call it that, is simplicity itself. Slice up good tomatoes. Add slices or torn pieces of tender mozzarella, preferably in the form of bocconcini. (These days I can find bambino bocconcini that are the same size as the cherry tomatoes and they look so sweet together – like someone has lost a string of pearls into the mix!) Add torn up or chiffonaded basil, salt, pepper, good olive oil and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. I’m partial to balsamic, so I add several generous swirls of the deliciously sweet, tangy syrup, which is why my bocconcini look so muddy and dark. I don’t care what they look like – they’re delicious! Mix and devour.
Do not skimp on either the balsamic vinegar or the oil. Not only will the flavours not be as bright and as tasty, but you really are doing a great disservice to your other ingredients. Celebrate your salad! Treat it with respect and it will bring light and deliciousness into your life and, when the weather is cold and miserable, you will have something to look forward to.