Do you have a favorite salad?
Mine is caesar. I love the creamy, garlicky dressing, and I always make it with extra anchovies. I also like ordering it for lunch when I’m out, and I’ve had many plates of caesar with chicken, or salmon, or steak, or shrimp, or more anchovies, please.
A second favorite salad is caprese, that Italian specialty made with sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, and seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Although I must admit that when I eat a caprese salad, I prefer a ratio of cheese to tomato that is heavily skewed toward mozzarella. I can’t get enough of the soft white cheese.
I often buy a ball of mozzarella with the intention of making a caprese salad, but more often than not I’ll just snack on thick slices or make avocado and mozzarella sandwiches, and I’ll end up using the tomatoes and basil for something else, like spaghetti sauce. So I don’t really make caprese salads that often.
But this last time, I was intent on making a caprese salad at home. I wanted to make it a little different – so I thought of making a tangy mustard dressing instead of just plain olive oil or a balsamic vinaigrette. Then I thought of adding avocados, too, because good always comes out of adding avocado. Naturally, avocado leads to bacon.
And then I figured I might as well add some fried capers. Because this caprese has gone all sorts of crazy already, and wouldn’t it just benefit from crispy, salty, little capers?
So the caprese salad I ended up with was a far cry from the traditional versions like this one above (from a dinner party I hosted last year)…
And it was very different from this beautiful burrata version from my Chicago trip…
But boy oh boy, it was a GOOD salad.
The dressing was sweet and tangy, from the combination of red wine vinegar, honey, and yellow mustard (I received a sample of Colman’s mustard, which is a brand I’ve never tried before, and I’m happy to report that it’s zippy and sharp like any good mustard should be). It nicely coated the mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, avocado pieces, and crumbles of crisp bacon. The fried capers added a salty umami flavor to each bite, and they sort of reminded me of anchovies because of the intense saltiness.
So while this caprese salad is not what you would expect of a traditional caprese, it’s definitely worth making. Just don’t blame me if you snack on too much mozzarella balls while you’re assembling it.
Caprese Salad with Fried Capers, Bacon, and Avocado
2-4 tablespoon capers (I used 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 oz mozzarella balls (I used the ciliegine mozzarella or “cherry size”)
10 leaves fresh basil
1/2 avocado, diced
2 slices bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon mustard (I used Colman’s Prepared Mustard)
1/2 teaspoon salt
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add capers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 2 minutes or until capers start to pop open and crisp up. Transfer to a small bowl and drain on paper towels.
Make the salad dressing by whisking together all the dressing ingredients.
Toss mozzarella, tomatoes, avocado, and bacon together with the dressing. Top with fried capers and shredded basil. Serves 4.
It’s like a caprese on steroids. (But not vein-y, and there’s no roid rage involved.)