Mozarella & Tomatoes & Basil

It’s all in the title, that simple it is and not much can get simpler than this, in my opinion.

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Add some good quality olive oil, a sprinkle of salt & pepper to season and you’re right there.

Caprese Salad aka Insalata Caprese. Wide smile.

As I’m writing this, it is sunny, light breeze is playing with our garden curtain, tree leaf shadows are dancing in a fancy flickering manner all around, I can hear the neighbour mowing the lawn two houses away from here – the smell of freshly cut grass, so immense! – all of this making me feel very summery indeed – I almost don’t want to let go as the end of August dangerously approaches.

Just like I probably can never give up on this refreshing, beautiful salad, which you can make anytime you like, not just on hot days. We often make it on Sunday evenings, it has become a sort of a little habit, especially as a desperate attempt to balance heavier Sunday roast lunches.

If you need a little help further on with it, let me tell you that truly all you need for this classic echoing colours of the Italian flag is 250 – 300 g Mozarella cheese (amount depending on the number of servings and your appetite – I use cca 250g for 2 salad portions) and 2 large ripe tomatoes.

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To dress and season you will also need a good handful of fresh basil leaves, 2 – 4 tbsp good quality extra – virgin olive oil, salt and freshly – ground black pepper.

To make the salad, simply drain the Mozarella cheese and slice it evenly. Slice the tomatoes similarly, in about 5 mm thick rounds. Then arrange these red and white rounds one over another on a large serving platter – I usually follow a circular pattern from the edge towards the inside of the plate.

When adding the basil leaves, you can either pull them apart by hand and only scatter them all over the cheese and tomatoes, or you can insert single leaves in between the cheese and veg slices – again, in a pattern you personally prefer.

Do not make this salad by assembling all ingredients and tossing them as you often do with other leaf salads – the chances are you will end up with a good mash of tomato and cheese juices – remember, Mozarella is very moist, semi – soft kind of cheese.

For the final touch drizzle the salad with olive oil and sprinkle salt and black pepper to your taste.

We love it served with freshly toasted Ciabatta bread (Italian white bread; but you can also use baguettes or any nice artisan bread), sliced or just torn.

There’s always a little formal battle going on at the end of the meal when we wipe the veg, cheese & oil juices on the bottom of the plate with it. Absolute bliss!

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For a slight variation you can use cherry tomatoes combined with mini Mozarella balls, or indeed tomberries (very cute, only about 1 cm small tomatoes) and Mozarella pearls.

You can also dress the salad with Pesto alla Genovese which is a wonderful mixture of basil leaves, pine nuts, hard cheese, garlic and olive oil.

Hope you like it just as much as we do! Wink



Red Rice Salad

When looking for something heartier than just salad of greens, go for a mixture of those with rice for example, add some prawn jewels and you are where you want to be.

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Red rice looks particularly pretty on a plate, in  my opinion, and having higher nutritional value than white rice, while being high in fibre, it makes a very good choice.

Red rice cooks a bit longer than the white rice, usually up to 30 mins, but keeps its very pleasant nutty flavour which definitely is an advantage for this light meal.

Start cooking the rice first, prepare other ingredients meanwhile. Count your rice portions up to 70 g rice per person. Bring a large pan of water to boil, add the rice, pinch of salt and keep on a lower heat, simmering for 25 – 30 mins.

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Heat a large pan with a spoon of olive oil,  add 200 g peeled pre – cooked king prawns,  and stir fry them with two smaller chopped peppers ( I used red and orange to add warm colours). Do not overcook the peppers, you want them warm and only lightly fried, add radishes sliced alongside, and as the last add some sugar snaps. Stir all well and take off the heat.

Snap young cress (micro / baby cress) to top the salad.

Drain the rice and place in the salad bowl. While still hot, drizzle with Vietnamese dipping sauce and stir lightly. Add the prawn & green mixture into the bowl, stir lightly again, and give the salad one more sauce drizzle. Sprinkle generously with the young cress.

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Serve while warm, but naturally, it can be enjoyed as a cold salad, too.