Thursday, September 2, 2010

Midwestern Caprese Salad

Fresh mozzarella has become more available in our grocery stores over the years, as have fresh herbs, such as basil.  You can usually find a good tomato somewhere around town as well.  But for the times when all those things aren't in abundance, I have come up with a tasty alternative to the traditional Italian Caprese Salad.

I like to make use of local food ingredients and things I buy during my travels.  One of my favorite things in the world is cheese curds, and years ago the only way to get them fresh was to make a trip over to Wisconsin, which isn't ever a bad idea.  My sister and I have had some awfully fun road trips in that direction, and every time we have come home with cheese curds.  Okay, not every time, sometimes they just don't make it all the way home.  They are a true Midwestern delight, though some people may shy away because of their name or simply because they may not look very tasty.  Oh, but they are so good. Especially when they are deep fried and served at The Minnesota State Fair.  Mmmm..

The Original Nelson Cheese Factory is our cheese store of choice, but they now have a location called Nelson Cheese and Deli in St. Paul where they deliver the little beauties in order to expand their market, and to save some of us from the drive.  And we are truly grateful.

With the first crop of tomatoes I had this year I decided to do a little spin on a family favorite hors d'oeuvre.  I am calling it "Midwestern Caprese Salad", and until I can get to Campania to enjoy the real thing, this will certainly do. First you need some tomatoes. 

I planted an assortment, and today I used yellow and red cherry tomatoes.  Cut them up,

then move on to the basil.  I started the growing season with a small pot of basil, and thinking that just wouldn't do for all the recipes I had planned to make this summer I planted an entire row in my garden.  Twelve batches of pesto later, it just keeps coming back.

Chiffonade the basil, or chop it more finely if you like.  Don't know what I mean by chiffonade?  Simply stack your fresh basil leaves, roll them up, then slice from one end to the other into strips.

Then it's on to the star of the show.  This is what your cheese curds will look like when you get them at Nelson's.

If you have to buy some at your local grocery store they will certainly do, they just won't have that telltale squeak when you bite into them, and for me that's half the fun.

Chop them up into bite size pieces and add them to the tomatoes. 

Add some salt, 

and some pepper,

and then a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. 

Mix it all together and dig in, or serve it alongside a fun little sandwich like I did.

Egg salad is my number one favorite sandwich, always has been, always will be.  We all know there are a million different adaptations of it out there, but I will share my own.

Cut up your hard boiled eggs, add a little fresh parsley if you have it, some salt and pepper, a bit of mayonnaise and a squirt of mustard.  Taste it and add more of each ingredient as you see fit.

Then for the kicker.

At the time I made this I had some fresh carrots from our local Mennonite farm, but the next time I make it (probably this weekend) I will have carrots from my own garden to use.  Wherever yours are from, get them shredded and add some to the mix.  They add a hint of sweetness and essential vitamins as well. 

I piled my egg salad on a fresh piece of Naan bread, purchased on the same trip to St. Paul at Trader Joe's.  They just built a new store near my sister's house, and she has been in grocery shopping Heaven ever since.  If you see one, go there.  It's an amazing place.

Whatever you place your Midwestern Caprese Salad next to, don't forget a nice cold beverage to wash it down.  If we were eating the traditional Caprese there would be a good glass of vino next to my plate, but today an orange cream soda will do the trick.


Kristi Pohl said...

Oh Yum! Never thought of using cheese curds-now I need a trip to Nelsons's (though think I will wait until after the fair...). And I am off to boil some eggs for my lunch, since now I am craving that sammy...

Rachelle said...

Egg salad is one of my all time favorite sandwiches too! Never thought of adding carrot. I'm going to have to try some version of your caprese salad soon as I Love tomatoes and have an abundance of them!

Tracy said...

Well now I just want to come over for lunch. Awesome recipes!!!