I just love Caprese salad. And even though I know it’s frowned upon, I love to drizzle it in sweet, aged balsamic vinegar. A true Caprese salad is made from vine ripened tomatoes that are red and juicy, fresh and moist mozzarella (preferably buffalo mozzarella, but since it’s so expensive, the more popular is cow’s milk mozzarella), and fresh green basil…all drizzled in a high quality olive oil, and seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper. The Island of Capri’s population would be horrified at the thought of ruining what are three beautiful and absolutely perfect ingredients with a drizzle of balsamic, and because they believe that the vinegar will break down the delicate cheese.
Well, I’m not horrified, and I think that the delicate cheese is much stronger than they think. I like it.
The Caprese salad was actually created in the 1950’s at the Trattoria da Vincenzo (A restaurant in Capri) for it’s regulars who would request a fresh tomato and possibly fresh treccia cheese (similar to mozzarella, but drier) salad.
As I was researching the origin of the Caprese salad, I read that Capri’s name could have originated from capra, meaning goat. The very first thought that came to mind was, if the Caprese salad was created by someone on the Island of Capri, whose name could have originated from the word “goat”, then why is it that the Caprese salad is made with Buffalo Mozzarella, rather than goat cheese?
And that made me think that I should “twist” the Caprese salad, using goat cheese. I wanted to keep the colors the same, and knowing that beets and goat cheese are madly in love with each other in other salads, I decided to use fresh beets. I wanted to keep the basil, just because I love it..but thought to add pistachio to add a nutty crunch. Oranges complement beets beautifully, so blood orange olive oil would be a lovely addition. It was. And… to finish it off the way I think it was made to be finished off… 18 year old balsamic vinegar.
Well, talk about a million flavors popping with every bite. The sweet beets; the blood orange, the tangy sweet Balsamic, the sharp tang of the goat cheese, the nutty pistachios, and the fragrant basil… I found myself grabbing a slice of Italian bread, and sopping up the beet juice that mingled with the olive oil and vinegar that was left on the plate. I would definitely make it again… and again….
While I truly love the original, this is an excellent “twist” for the winter months!
Goat Cheese and Beet “Caprese” Salad
Just a quick note: I think that store bought pickled beets would work just as nicely, and would put this salad into the quick and easy category. I mean, it already is quick and easy, but it does take about 40 minutes or so to cook the beets.
If you cannot find blood orange olive oil, you can add a teaspoon of fresh orange juice to a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Or, you can buy them online here. (No, they’re not paying me to say that! I just like them.)
I wanted to share my basil story with you. The temps were below zero today, and with the wind chills, I think we hit somewhere around -21 degrees. I ran to the store at lunch to grab some basil and fresh beets. I knew that the beets would be just fine in the car while I was at work, but I worried for the basil. I had the cashier double bag the basil for me, and thought that it would be safest inside with me. So I tucked it under my arm, and then ran inside. And then did the same when I left work at 4:30pm. Even though I tried to protect it, the basil just could not handle the cold. This is what a couple of minutes did to my basil…wilted and black leaves.
4 beets, cooked and sliced into 1/4” slices
4 oz goat cheese, slice 1/4” slices
Chiffonade of fresh basil leaves
About 2 tbsp pistachios, chopped
Blood Orange olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
The beets are easy to prepare. Carefully wash them under water. Remove the greens, and trim the root. Place in a pan of cold water on medium heat, and bring to a boil. Boil for about 40 minutes, or until tender. You can saute the greens in a little olive oil and garlic, but you won’t use them for this recipe.
Arrange the beets and goat cheese on the plate, alternating, and in any design you’d like. Top with chiffonade of basil, and chopped pistachios. Drizzle with blood orange olive oil and balsamic vinegar (You can go as light or heavy as you prefer. I tend to go a little heavy with the vinegar). Sprinkle with fresh ground black pepper.