It’s tomato time.
It makes me feel like an addict.I can’t leave the farmers’ market without stocking up. And if I see heirloom varieties or Romas, forget it. I feel the need to buy them all. Isn’t there a support group for this? Maybe I could start one.
You know how violet turns into a blueberry in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Well, let’s say I’m not one to throw stones.
There are 3 musts for me when tomatoes are in season: Bruschetta, BLT’s, and caprese salads.
Let’s focus on the last one.
First thing’s first: let’s get the pronunciation out of the way.
One night I was out to dinner with 2 friends. One of them ordered the caprese salad as an appetizer. She said, “Ca-preese” salad. The server, who had a broom stick up his rear and because of it looked like an upside down butter churn, snarled and fiercely corrected her. I don’t want that to happen to you. Ever.
The salad comes from Capri, hence the name.
Traditionally it’s a salad of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, salt, and olive oil. It’s colors (Green, white, red) symbolize the Italian flag.
I always tend to add balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and capers.
When I’ve eaten my salad I’m left with a sad bowl of ignored drippings. Tomato pulp, salt, pepper, orbs of deep purple vinegar floating in good golden olive oil. Maybe a speck or two of basil and a stray caper. Wasting that should come with a life sentence in a land too dry to grow a tomato.
Usually, I’ll grab a hunk of bread and soak it up. You’ll never find a sponge that flavorful.
So, I got to thinking. Why not make it an all-inclusive experience? I have a confession: There have been times when I didn’t have bread. There were thoughts of drinking from the bowl or making a mad dash for the nearest store. It’s that serious. Seriously.
To make sure you never have to risk a one-way trip to a tomato-barren final resting place, I’ve created caprese pockets.It’s a handheld salad with a built-in edible sponge. Here’s what you need for 4 caprese pockets:
- 1 bag of frozen dinner yeast rolls (I recommend Sister Shubert)
- 2 small Roma tomatoes
- 1 small log of pre-sliced fresh mozzarella
- 8 basil leaves
- 1 Tbsp. capers, drained
- 2 Tsp. balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil or olive oil spray
- Dried oregano
- Garlic powder
Set your oven on 350.
While the oven preheats, set 4 frozen rolls on a cookie sheet and drizzle (or spray) each one with olive oil. Season each oiled roll with salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. Bake them for 7 minutes.
Remove the stem area from the tomatoes and slice them in half. Make sure you get the smallest Romas you can find. Then season each half with salt and pepper.Repeat after me: I WILL PUT SALT ON MY TOMATOES.
Separate your mozzarella slices. If you can’t find the small pre-sliced log, go for the big log or a ball of mozzarella and cut a few coins. You want small pieces.
Put your balsamic into a small dish. You want to use a ½ tsp. measure for each biscuit so you don’t accidentally get heavy-handed. It’s easy with balsamic, I know.
After the rolls have baked for 7 minutes, take the pan out of the oven.
Using an oven mitt or tongs to hold the roll, create a pocket. Use a small knife to cut a slit in one end that goes almost to the other end. You don’t want to cut the roll in half. Just make a pocket. Do this to all 4 rolls.
Then into each “pocket” you want to carefully sprinkle in some basil, add one small piece of mozzarella, a tomato half, some capers, and a drizzle of balsamic. Push down on the biscuit to smoosh everything inside it. Be careful here. You don’t want to tear the roll in half. Just be gently and do your best. Put the 4 stuffed rolls back into the oven for 4 minutes.
Let the rolls cool for 2-3 minutes before eating.
The cheese is just beginning to melt. The basil tastes like a bright Italian summer. The tomato is juicy and meaty. The roll is warm, soft and pillowy. You get a little zing from the vinegar and the capers. This is Italy in 2 or 3 bites.
Tip: You’ve heard this from me before… like several lines ago. Season your tomatoes. Salt brings out a tomato’s flavor. It’s a must. Whether the tomato is going on a salad or a BLT, salt each slice before assembling. It’s the difference between flavor fireworks and a dud. I promise.