You know when summer is preparing to transition by the abundance of tomatoes. From large juicy slicers to meaty romas and colorful cherries, they are practically a symbol of the good earth’s bounty.
And I love finding fresh new ways to use the harvest! Including a new version of this classic dish.
I first had this Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad at Crave Brothers Cheese and I thought it was genius! Even prettier and tastier than the original, it was also easier to eat when we were standing and mingling!
They served it in stemmed wine glasses and here I use brandy glasses since I love the large size. But it’s delicious and fun even served from a big salad bowl.
This year, my cherry tomatoes are finally going gangbusters after a bit of a slow start. So I’m looking forward to eating this a lot. All fall!
What is Caprese Salad
Per Wikipedia, a Caprese Salad “is a simple Italian salad, made of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and sweet basil, seasoned with salt, and olive oil. It is usually arranged on a plate in restaurant practice. Like pizza Margherita, it features the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, and red.”
As this description mentions, you often see this plated as tomatoes slices, mozzarella slices and basil leaves overlapped in rings or rows and topped with olive oil or vinaigrette.
A winner in the original form, I think it morphs perfectly into a deconstructed caprese salad! And it’s a perfect celebration of the cherry tomato harvest!
Why You’ll Love This!
Tasty. Full of beautiful fresh tomatoes, creamy cheese and aromatic basil, this appetizer is seriously flavorful.
Impressive. This salad is good in any form, but arrange the components in a brandy or martini glass and it becomes classy—a fancy, caprese salad (or appetizer)!
Easy. With just a few ingredients, a simple dressing and almost no chopping, this is a super easy dish to put together.
Healthy. You’ve got to love an appetizer that’s actually good for you!
What You’ll Need
- Olive oil. This is the base of the dressing.
- Fresh Basil. This adds flavor to the dressing and directly to the salad.
- Salt, pepper.
- Cherry tomatoes. This is the second of three main salad components.
- .Fresh mozzarella balls. This is the third of three main salad components.
- Optional Garnish like breadstick or cheese straws. These are optional but I think they’re cute!
- Serving Glasses like brandy or martini glasses are nice but not essential.
Fresh Mozzarella and it’s Many Forms
Per the Falling in Love with Cheese blog, Fresh Mozzarella “is a pillowy soft, bright white cheese that is usually made in different size ball formats. Packed in water at the production facility or hand-wrapped fresh in plastic wrap, it is made with a high moisture content and should be consumed within 7 days of production.”
Fresh Mozzarella is usually made with buffalo or cow’s milk and is quite different from the drier, more aged mozzarella you find on pizzas. Just remember that since it is fresh, not aged, it won’t last as long!
At the grocers you may see fresh mozzarella in a number of different forms. It typically comes as a log or a large ball or it may be a collection of small balls compressed together or floating in brine or oil and seasonings. The small balls are called pearls or Ciliegine (which translates as small cherry) and they are perfect in appetizers and salads since they don’t need cutting. But I’ll just cut up the larger size if needed.
Step by Step Directions
Blend dressing ingredients in blender until almost smooth.
Halve cherry tomatoes and julienne the remaining basil leaves.
Toss drained mozzarella balls, basil ribbons and cherry tomato halves with dressing.
Transfer to serving glasses (usually with a spoon unless you are photographing and extra picky).
Garnish with cheese straws or breadsticks if desired.
How to Serve
I think this works well as either an appetizer or a salad.
If you are in a hurry or don’t have the individual glassware, this can also be tossed in a big bowl and served that way. But I think it’s especially impressive in its deconstructed version! I often add a breadstick or a cheese straw to the glass for contrast.
I wouldn’t hesitate to put these out on a buffet table, even a brunch buffet. Yes, I’d eat any time of day–or any time of the year!
This is already suitable for vegetarian and low carb diets. Hooray!
You could turn this into a pesto caprese salad by using prepared pesto diluted with extra olive oil instead of the basil and oil. In that case I’d probably still use some julienned basil if I had it—it’s so pretty!
And if you like this, you might want to consider some other fun variations on caprese salads. Switch up your veggie with an Asparagus Caprese Salad. Or turn it into bruschetta with this Prosciutto Caprese Bruschetta with Basil Drizzle
You can even serve the fresh mozzarella with fruit like in this Cantelope Caprese Salad.
Leftovers will survive better than a dressed lettuce salad, but I’d still try to eat them in a day or two. It cannot be frozen once made.
Alone, the fresh mozzarella freezes beautifully! I usually have some in my freezer in one form or another. Once thawed it can be used just like fresh.
While cherry tomatoes can be frozen, after they thaw they’ll collapse. But they are yummy in cooked dishes like this Cherry Tomato Pasta Puttanseca.
Tips & FAQs
Heirloom tomatoes add nice color variety to this dish if they are available.
An easy way to julienne basil is to roll up a stack of leaves into a roll, then cut thin slices.
Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad or Appetizer
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6 large basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (multicolor heirloom if available)
- 12 large basil leaves (julienned)
- 1 8- ounce package fresh mozzarella balls (aka pearls or Ciliegine)
- Optional Garnish of your choice (e.g small breadstick or cheese straws)
- Blend dressing ingredients in blender until almost smooth.
- Halve cherry tomatoes and julienne the remaining basil leaves.
- Toss drained mozzarella balls, basil ribbons and cherry tomato halves with dressing.
- Transfer to serving glasses (usually with a spoon unless you are photographing and extra picky).
- Garnish with cheese straws or breadsticks if desired.
Originally published on Jul 3, 2019
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