The frosts have come earlier than usual this year and I was fortunate enough to have plucked the last of our basil and baby tomatoes from potted plants in the courtyard before they felt the cruel bite of winter.
Recently, I was invited to enjoy an Epicurean Tasting at the Capital Wines cellar door and had been fantasising ever since about the fresh 'Caprese'-style salad served on the day. Owner, Jennie Mooney, kindly organised a tomato-free version of the dish for me and gee it was good! The heirloom tomatoes and basil were grown on the spot in Grazing's kitchen garden and the bocconcini was 'a good one imported from Italy', Jennie advised. The dish was paired with a glass of Capital Wines 'The Swinger' sauvignon blanc 2014. Wow!
Caprese is an Italian style of salad that usually comprises slices of fresh tomato and mozzarella, dressed simply with basil leaves and olive oil. Frankly, I prefer the version served at the Epicurean Centre, which featured tomatoes and bocconcini served on a base of garden-fresh pesto. So, with the 'Ambrosia' extra virgin olive oil from Kangaroo Valley Olives, and my own home-grown basil, garlic and baby tomatoes, I made a batch of pesto and created a garden Caprese salad a la Lizzy for brunch. What can I tell you. It's divine!
CAPRESE SALAD WITH BABY TOMATOES AND BOCCONCINI
For the pesto:
40-50 fresh basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
30-40g pine nuts, lightly toasted
40-50g pecorino, grated
80-100 mls extra virgin olive oil
a sprinkle of coarse sea salt
Make the pesto in a mortar and pestle. Pound the basil leaves, then add the garlic, then the salt, then the pine nut kernels, followed by the cheese and the oil. See my step-by step-instructions here.
For the salad:
3-4 baby/cherry tomatoes (per person)
2 bocconcini balls, cut into halves or quarters (per person)
freshly made pesto
basil sprigs, to garnish
sea salt and cracked pepper, to taste
Spoon some pesto onto a small serving plate and arrange the sliced tomatoes and bocconcini over the top. Garnish with the sprigs of basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tell me dear readers, do you grow your own basil and tomatoes in your part of the world? Do you make your own pesto? Do you do it by hand, as I do, or do you use a food processor?
Note: please watch this space for my upcoming article about the Epicurean Tasting at Capital Wines cellar door.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.