Monday, August 30, 2010

Caprese Salad - the next level

Everyone (I think) has had a Caprese salad at least once in their life.  You know, the slices of fresh mozzarella cheese layered with red tomatoes, garnished with fresh basil and some vinaigrette?  It's a summer staple in my house.

I catered a political event a couple days ago, my first time - ever, and it was a blast! but that's another blog entry :) and was trying to think of a way to upscale the basic Caprese salad.  The goal was to showcase how simple it is to cook really GOOD, fresh food.  I found a recipe by Ms. Paula Deen that sounded yummy, except she *shudder* added mayonnaise to mozzarella cheese immediately making this Jersey girl's stomach scream "TRAVESTY!!!!" sort of like the Texans penchant for putting ranch dressing on PIZZA....Besides, adding a big ole' glob of mayo is not in your best nutritional interests.  In Paula's defense, I guess if you buy bagged mozz, it's a little dry, she just wanted to moisten it up a bit.  I use fresh.  Fresh, fresh, fresh...It's SO good, why use that dried up bag stuff anymore?  Especially since I buy mine from local farmers.  YUM! 

I omitted the mayo, used fresh mozz instead of bagged, and omg was it good!  It's easy to prepare, people will rave about it, and think you know WAY MORE about cooking that you do.  Plus, it looks pretty, and it's the perfect thing to serve when you have guests coming over.  You can make them ahead of time, and refrigerate them until you want to pop them in the oven.  Easy~!

Tomato Caprese Canapes (printable recipe is HERE)

2 boxes of mini phyllo shells - you find these in the freezer section next to the phyllo dough and puff pastry.  They will sort of look like this:
3/4 cup of tomatoes, fine dice - Cut 'em small - remember you are sticking them in these teeny phyllo cups.
2 tsp minced onion
1 heaping tsp. finely chopped fresh sweet basil pleasepleaseplease don't use dried - the flavor just doesn't compare.

4-6 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled Remember I told you the easy peasy way to cook bacon in the oven? 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes to desired crispness.
1 cup grated fresh mozzarella
pepper and garlic powder

Combine the tomatoes, onion, basil.  Let sit in a colander for a few minutes to drain excess liquid.  Add pepper and garlic powder to taste - about 1/8 tsp of each.

Put about a teaspoon of the tomato mixture in a shell you have placed on a cookie sheet. If you have a melon baller, use the large end - perfect portion size and it fits neatly into the cup.

Now, take a pinch of fresh mozzarella and plop it on top.  Next, take a bit of crumbled bacon and garnish.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you like, sprinkle a bit of smoked finishing salt on the top before serving.  The bacon I use is from a local farm - it's super lean, and not as salty as the store brands, so I don't feel guilty induging in a pinch of Halen Mon Smoked Sea Salt :).  Enjoy!

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