Long time readers of Memorie di Angelina know that we pretty much stick to tried-and-true traditional Italian home cooking on this blog, but every once in a while, I get the urge to be creative. This week’s post is one of those rare occasions. Here’s an American style variation on a classic caprese salad mixing an iconic New World ingredient that’s already part of the dish—tomato—with another New World ingredient that’s not—corn. The two marry beautifully, and the mild mozzarella becomes a bride’s maid (or best man?)
I’ve dubbed my invention a caprese all’americana, or American-style, in honor of the upcoming Independence Day holiday here in the US. It’s a dish that meets all my criteria for a perfect summer dish: colorful, tasty and really quick to make. It would make a great starter before digging into beautiful platter of grilled meats. That’s my idea of a great 4th of July cookout.
- 4-6 medium sized mozzarella balls (1 per person)
For the bed:
- 150g (5 oz) baby arugula
- Olive oil
For the topping:
- 750g (4 cups) corn kernels (from 4-5 cobs)
- 750g (4-6 medium) tomatoes, deseeded and cut into small dice
- 2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
- Freshly squeezed juice of one half lemon
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Basil or mint (optional)
Start by cooking your corn. There are various ways to do it, but in my book the easiest is to husk and boil the corn cobs in abundant salted water briefly, only for 3-5 minutes for fresh corn, a minute or two more if you’re using corn that’s been in the fridge for a few days. Let the cobs cool and cut off the kernels with a sharp knife. (This goes much easier if you apply a gentle sawing motion as you glide the knife down the sides of the cob.)
Dress the arugula lightly with olive and salt, then lay down a bed of arugula in individual plates.
Slice each mozzarella and lay it out in an attractive pattern on each plate.
Now mix the corn kernels with the diced tomato and sliced green onions. Dress the mixture with olive oil, followed by the lemon juice, then season generously to taste. If you like, mix in a few shredded basil or mint leaves just before serving.
Spoon the corn and tomato mixture over the mozzarella in an attractive pattern, for example, piling it high in the middle of the plate and sprinkling a bit around the sides as well.
Drizzle a bit more olive oil over everything and serve.
There’s not much fuss involved in this dish, but as usual the quality ingredients will decide the quality of the final dish. I wouldn’t insist on mozzarella di bufala for this dish—a good quality domestic mozzarella will do fine, but do look for fresh mozzarella, the kind that you buy packed in its whey. The kind of cheese that is sold as mozzarella dry and wrapped in plastic is OK for cooking but not very appetizing eaten raw like this. But if that’s all you can find, then try this little trick: let the cheese ‘brine’ in lightly salted mixture of half milk and half water, enough to cover, for an hour or two. That will soften the cheese and add a bit of savor.
A classic Caprese Salad contains no vinegar or lemon juice, but for this American style version, I’ve added just a bit of lemon, enough to offset the sweetness of the corn and brighten the dish. But be very discrete about it. There should be no discernible sour taste at all.