The first time I ever had this salad was when I was 16 and traveling in Italy with my family. I vividly remember sitting in a small trattoria in Vernazza, the bright red tomatoes bursting with flavor in my mouth, their sweet juices offset by the creamy mozzarella and sharp basil. Of course, I had eaten raw tomatoes before, but had never liked them much. But there was something about this combination of flavors that changed my mind for good, and since then I have loved tomatoes in salads, pastas, even plain with a little salt. Be sure to only use the best tomatoes you can find -- this is not a salad for winter, since there are only a few flavors it really gives them a chance to shine. Insalata Caprese
2 large tomatoes (beefsteak or heirloom), sliced
8 oz mozzarella, sliced
10-12 basil leaves
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
On a large plate, layer one slice tomato, one slice mozzarella, and one basil leaf. Repeat with remaining slices to form a circle around the edge of the plate. Drizzle vinegar and olive oil over salad, and season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.