Caprese Skewers: Salad On A Stick

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I love me a caprese salad. I also love Food On A Stick. Although this is not a new notion, I've had many really shitty caprese sticks so I've finally decided to make my own. What makes them shitty? The following:
  • wrong tomatoes
  • unseasoned cheese
  • basil is old
  • forget to season all of the components
Of course I aim to fix these issues and produce a super simple, extremely flavorful and easy party snack you and your guests will love. My version wins. Hands. Down.

First, I use only sweet tomatoes. Cherry and grape tomatoes are perfect for two reasons: first, they have a natural sweetness to them no matter what season it is so they will balance out the other flavors perfectly and second, they are the perfect size and shape to slide on the sticks. I may even prefer grape tomatoes over the cherry ones ever so slightly simply based on their size, which is the perfect bite and the same exact size as the cheese. In summer, when heirloom cherry tomatoes are in season, I love making this appetizer with different colors. It's always the most favorite dish at a party and always the first to be eaten.

Next, I season my cheese forcefully but thoughtfully. Garlic, fresh herbs, and a good quality olive oil are what  perfectly season the mozzarella. I've seen some people use vinegar or some sort of acid. I'm not a huge fan personally because the tomatoes already have acid naturally, and especially if you use cherry or grape tomatoes they are quite sweet on their own; using vinegar especially something like balsamic would be redundant and even mask the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. So I omit it here. However, I do splurge on a really, really good quality olive oil. I love using one using koroneiki olives -- it has a really nice fruity taste without being too overpowering. Whole Foods 365 brand actually puts a version out that's quite tasty and affordable for around $8 a bottle.

Thirdly, I use only the freshest and crispiest basil leaves. I like using large ones that I fold in half and then skewer. Some versions of this dish or basic salad I find doesn't use enough basil; the basil for this salad/dish is an equal component and should be represented as equally in terms of quantity. So make sure you look at the package, open it up, and see you've got beautiful green basil leaves to work with. If they have a little brown around the edges it's old; get another package. 

Finally, although the cheese has the bulk of the flavor, I wait to season the whole thing until right before serving. Why? Because salt draws out the moisture of things; if I season the tomatoes or cheese too early they will become more dry and not taste as plump or juicy. Especially when the tomatoes are my only acid here, I need them as juicy as possible. So I'll go ahead and skewer the ingredients all together, lay them all out in one even layer, then drizzle them all with some more olive oil and season with course sea salt and coursely ground black pepper. Again, using course gives another layer of texture. And really try to use a great salt for this. I love using a simple french sea salt like fleur de sel or a good gray salt like celtic sea salt. Not only are these salts good for you with natural minerals, they have that crunch that's irresistible.

To serve simply lay out on a platter and let guests help themselves! These are great for any party and can go from morning to night, accompanying a variety of different foods and cuisines. Just remember, since you don't have a lot going on here it's imperative to use only the best: the best tomatoes, the best cheese, the freshest basil of perfect color, splurge on that good olive oil if you need to, invest in a good finishing salt, etc. It will make all the difference.

Caprese Skewers
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 container fresh mozzarella balls 
1/2 cup fresh, crisp LARGE basil leaves
wooden skewers
course sea salt -- I like a french fleur de sel or even a celtic or ca gray salt 
coursely ground fresh black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary -- leaves picked off of stem and very finely chopped
very good, extra virgin olive oil  (I like using olive oil with koroneiki olives for this, or french olive oil) 

Take the mozzarella cheese balls and drain from their water. Take a few paper towels and pat and squeeze very dry. The more moisture the more soggy the skewers will be, so it's important that you pat them quite dry. Toss the cheese with the garlic, rosemary, some salt and pepper to taste, and some olive oil -- enough to coat the ingredients well. Let stand for flavors to marinade at least an hour (preferably overnight).

When you're ready to skewer, look over the basil and pick off the best, brightest green leaves. Begin sliding the tomatoes, cheese, and basil onto the sticks in a pattern then lay out skewers onto a baking sheet. When ready to serve, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving platter and serve. 


Anonymous said...

You are SO right! And your description cracked me up. I, too, have had my share of shitty caprese skewers. My friends at concert in the park will luv this version! Next stop - season the cheese.

SEW RED HOT said...

I googled for this and chose yours to go with because your presentation is the best! my bocconcini is marinating as per your instructions!