No salad will break your heart like the “Caprese.” It always sounds great; creamy mozzarella, fragrant basil, and sweet, juicy, vine-ripened tomatoes…what’s not to love? Well, false advertising for one. With very few exceptions, the tomatoes used on these Caprese salads are not sweet, juicy, ripe tomatoes; they’re the opposite.
They’re almost always your standard, conventionally
produced, picked green and left to redden (not ripen) in the case, tomatoes.
They’re mealy, flavorless, and completely undeserving of being paired with
ingredients as perfect as mozzarella and basil.
While I’m invariably disappointed by the execution of this
classic salad, I do love the combination of flavors, and by using cherry tomatoes,
I thought it would translate perfectly for a baked goat cheese appetizer. Did
it ever. When you take into consideration the taste, appearance, and ease of
preparation, there’s a real chance this could become your new favorite summer
By the way, as long as you are using high quality, oven
safe ramekins, you can also do these on the backyard grill. Place a piece of
foil on the grates, set down your ramekins, close the cover, and cook until the
juices are bubbling, and the cheese is heated through.
I hope you give this delicious, and so not disappointing
“Caprese” a try soon. Enjoy!
Ingredients for 4 portions:
8 oz log fresh goat cheese, cut into 4 equal pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
*bake at 400 degrees F. for about 15 minutes
I’ve never been a big fan of panzanella salad. I love the flavors in the dish, but stale, soggy bread just isn’t something I crave. The sogginess is understandable, as this dish was invented as a way to ingest rock-hard bread, but now that we’re just making it for fun, and not to avoid starvation, we can tweak a few things for texture’s sake.
The key is frying the bread cubes in loads of olive oil, in a skillet, which obviously makes them crispy, but the healthful fat also soaks in and renders them semi-waterproof, or should I say dressing-proof. The same goes for the dusting of Parmesan we apply halfway through.
You may be tempted to save some work and bake them in the oven, but don’t. By using the pan, you get nice, crispy surfaces, but the very center of the crouton stays just a touch chewy. The oven tends to dry the bread out, and you don’t get the same texture.
The gorgeous pool of tomato juices, oil, and wine vinegar will still soak in, and soften the bread, but you’ll still get a little crunch in each bite. For me this makes all the difference in the world. I know adding things like peppers, onions, and cucumbers is quite common, but I think they simply get in the way.
Having said that, it’s your “little swamp,” which is what “Panzanella” translates to, so throw in what you like. Speaking of which, I’m not giving ingredient amounts. I’ll give a ratio, and maybe a recommendation or two, but this isn’t the kind of recipe where you should be washing measuring cups and spoons. Taste and adust, and as always, enjoy!
(I like equal parts bread cubes to tomato salad)
For the bread:
stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, soaked well with olive oil
enough finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano to cover bread
— fry until crispy and browned
cherry tomatoes, halved
pinch of sugara little minced garlic
equal parts red wine vinegar and olive oil, to dress generously (add enough to create a very “swampy” mixture)