Caprese Salad with a Balsamic Reduction

caprese

Alright, I hope everyone is ready for the best salad that has ever been created! It’s easily the simplest, tastiest, most addicting salad that you’ll probably ever try. Oh man, I sincerely hope you’ve had this before. If you haven’t, please let me know so I can unfriend you.

It’s been a long time coming, getting this on the blog. I’ve made it numerous times and had multiple opportunities to document and create a post. But there’s always one thing that stopped me… The balsamic reduction.

Not because it’s complicated, I mean truly, it has to be one of the simplest, most delicious secrets of the kitchen. I think I’ve been avoiding it because balsamic vinegar is kind of a big deal. One would think all condiments are created equal. But as it turns out, balsamic vinegar is so important, there are laws regulating what can be called traditional balsamic vinegar.

See, that’s where my struggle lies. A simple sauce deriving from a complex creation. If you’ve had it or you’re just curious, you deserve to know the truth. If you think you can go on living the rest of your life as you know it without learning how it’s done, then I’m not here to change your mind. I won’t even shove the information in your face. Why?

Because what if I told you you had a choice?

matrix-red-or-blue-pill-w

You can take the blue pill and let the simplicity of balsamic reduction reflect here, with me just telling you how simple it is to make while leaving your mind uncluttered with the details of reality…

Or you can take the red pill, and follow me down the rabbit hole that goes deep into the processes of balsamic vinegar and how it’s created, opening your eyes to a mystical wonderland that is the real world…

blue pill

red pill

 

Whatever path you chose, it has led you here. To you, and me… about to get our caprese on!

If there’s one thing you have to love about this salad, it has to be its simplicity. With only 5 ingredients, this is easily something you would have no problem enjoying every day. Balsamic reduction is definitely the main focus here, so it’s good to understand how it works. Just like the rest of the salad, it’s incredibly easy, despite what pricey restaurants try to tell you. Sure, the price reflects the quality and age of the vinegar, but as I said, I go with a $10 bottle at BJ’s for home use and never complain about it.

When it boils down to it (haha boils..), all you’re doing is reducing a liquid. If you didn’t know that, there’s not much more I can do to help you. You probably hear about reducing sauces and stocks all the time. It’s a very simple technique – adding a liquid to something and letting it simmer till most of what was there evaporates away, leaving you with a more concentrated product than what you started with. But you’ll be amazed how many people don’t take the time for it. It really is as simple as just letting it simmer till it reduces, yet, it’s looked at as if it’s complex.

How easy is it? Let’s see…

Caprese Salad

1 each – Tomato
1 each – Fresh Mozzarella, ball
drizzle – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
drizzle – Balsamic Reduction
to taste – Salt and Pepper

 

Balsamic Reduction

1 cup – Balsamic Vinegar

Notes:

  • One good sized tomato and one good sized ball of mozzarella is enough for the wife and I to both have 3 slices of each. Typically, that’s the serving for the salad.
  • You can find fresh mozzarella in the specialty cheese case at your supermarkets deli/produce area. Again, I buy mine in a 3 pack at BJ’s for $8.
  • I used a small handful of mixed greens on the bottom of the salad.
  • Rule of thumb: Reducing your amount of vinegar by half is good enough for a syrup consistency. You can go more, and it’ll be thicker and even sweeter, so it’s up to you, but by half works well for starting at 1 cup.
  • Basil is optional, but please include it. It’s the DJ’s bumpin’ base to the party that’s going on in your mouth.
  • And for the love of all that is holy, whatever you do, don’t stick your face in the vapors of the evaporating vinegar. I know, that’s like saying “don’t look down!” but at least now you can never say I didn’t warn you.

Alright, you guys ready? I know with all the ingredients it looks so complicated, I’ll go slow.

  • First thing to do is the reduction. Pour your vinegar in a cold pot and turn it up to med-high heat. Be mindful of where the top of the vinegar is sitting in the pot. How close it is to the screws of the handle is usually the best place to measure. Keep it in mind so you can tell how much has evaporated later.

IMG_0868

You want it to simmer, not really boil.

IMG_0558-MOTION

If you put the heat up too high and let it sit there to reduce then.. well.. bad things happen.

IMG_0977

  • Let it simmer for about 10 minutes. The vapors will be filling the air in the shape of skulls and bones, the vinegar will be dancing the dance of its people and it’ll reduce away. You’ll notice by not only seeing where the top of the vinegar sits in the pan (if you saw where it was when you first put it in), or you can tell by the coat it leaves on a spoon or even the bottom of the pan when you tilt it over.

IMG_1105-MOTION

  • It’s a hot liquid right now so you can’t tell exactly how syrup-like it is. But pour it in a container and put it aside for a bit and you’ll see the fruit of your labors soon. I put mine in the fridge for a few and it’s fine.

After that’s done you can start cutting your stuff.

  • Slice your tomato and mozzarella in uniform slices. This is ideal for presentation, so if you’re just going to be shoving this in your face then don’t worry about being uniform.
IMG_0608-MOTION
My awesome, lefty wife, helping out.
  • Now, Season. Next to the reduction, seasoning the tomato and cheese is probably the next most important part of the dish. I don’t know if you’ve ever had tomato or fresh mozzarella, but there is a world of difference between seasoned and unseasoned. Since it’s easier, I lay all the slices out on the cutting board and do it there in one shot.

IMG_0706-MOTION

  • Sprinkle the salt, grind the pepper, and try not to eat anything yet. Don’t forget to flip all the slices over and give that side some love too.

IMG_1200

  • At this point, depending on the condition of your reduction, you should be ready to plate. So go ahead and get a small bed of mixed greens on a plate. On top of that, put a tomato, then some cheese, and a basil leaf. Repeat in the same order till the tower is 6 high – 3 tomato and 3 cheese.

Now, check out your balsamic reduction. Does it look like this?

IMG_1273-MOTION

If it does, then you’re a winner! If it doesn’t, it’s probably a little warm still. Let it cool down some more and you should be good.

  • Once your reduction is ready, you’re in the home stretch! Just drizzle some olive oil.

IMG_1225

  • Then drizzle some balsamic reduction…

IMG_1286-MOTION

And next thing you know you’re the happiest person on the block.

IMG_1355

Do you understand now, when I say “simple”? It’s just tomatoes and cheese with a little bit of oil and sauce. Yet, the combination is so fresh, so traditional, so perfect, nothing else is needed. Like, ever.

IMG_1326

I really hope this made you realize how easy this dish is to put together. It seems like it should be a special occasion kind of salad or appetizer, and I can totally get down with that. It’s Valentine’s Day afterall so it would be a great little way to spruce up that romantic meal. But it doesn’t have to be just for special days. Fan out the slices of tomato and cheese on a plate and call it a day, no one will care, trust me. Just get it in your belly, that’s all that matters.

 

How are you liking the gifs? I’m still loving it! Makes the blogs come alive, I think.

I could’ve posted this weeks ago. But I figured I’d wait till now. Caprese Salad is my mom’s favorite and Valentine’s Day is her birthday. So I thought I’d post this now as a celebration of sorts. Happy birthday, mom!

 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Antipasto and You! – The Man, The Chef, The Dad

Cool People Leave Comments...