Known as The Big Tomato and Sack-a-tomatoes, Sacramento is one of the best cities for growing some of the world's best "love apples." Trucks loaded with the bright red bounty of local growers' gardens are often seen on our freeways, and most people with any yard space at all-- or even one pot on their patio-- often share tips about how to get the best, juiciest, and weirdest tomatoes. Our farmers' markets have every kind under the sun. And "under the sun" is a clue: It stays hot and sunny here for months.
It's also the perfect climate for growing herbs, another ingredient in today's recipe. But whether you live here or not, you simply must indulge in Caprese, an Italian salad that even converts non-tomato-lovers once they taste it.
Here are the ingredients, but then I'll tell you how to make it the very best way:
Mozzarella cheese, sliced
twist of freshly ground pepper, optional
Tomatoes: Choose deep red ones, not waxy pink ones. Slice them about 1/4-inch thick. Place them on a serving plate.
Mozzarella: Do NOT buy the hard, shrink-wrapped ball of cheese that has the same consistency as string cheese. Get the SOFT kind that comes in a tub of water. Slice it a little thicker than the tomato, and rest these slices atop the tomato slices.
Basil leaves: Use fresh ones, snipped up or not, and sprinkle them atop the mozzarella. If you simply cannot get fresh leaves, then sprinkle the mozzarella with dried basil from a spice jar. This is a poor substitute, but at least the other ingredients will be killer.
Balsamic Vinegar: Get the best you can afford (you will only need a little). It should be sweet and syrupy, and will look (sorry) like motor oil. Drizzle just a bit over each stack. Sprinkle with pepper, if desired.
Ta-da! Now dig in and enjoy one of the joys of summer!
(Another option is to make an actual tossed salad with these same ingredients, also yummy.)