I was reading a stack of Cook’s Country, that my Mother In-Law had left for me, and one of the issues had an article on making a fussy caprese salad. And it left my mind wandering in a way. Mostly in a bitter-sweet way. My Mom passed away in the summer of 2006, in late July. I still, 7 years later, to pick up the phone and talk to her. I miss her more every year, as I watch my youngest two growing up and knowing she would have loved every second with them. She spent the majority of every day with my oldest son till he was 5. Even when she was on dialysis, we’d drive into the mountains and go places together. She would do her afternoon transfer while a very young Ford and I would dayhike.
But more so….I know that my now expanded view of the world and of food, she would have loved being there with me. My Dad wasn’t very adventurous in eating to put it bluntly. We ate a lot of casseroles and bland food. In talking to my Mom’s younger sister, the last of the 3 sisters alive, she has mentioned how my Mom loved to eat out, and would order the oddest item on the menu. I don’t blame her. Even then I was influenced by my Dad’s view of food. I didn’t knowingly eat a caper until on my honeymoon in 2006!
When I was pregnant with Ford, in the summer of 1997, my Mom came with me to many of my midwife appointments and to birthing classes. Ford’s bio-dad had left me feeling hopeless at 24, my Mom helped me get through the pregnancy without judging me. It was hard enough knowing I’d be a single mom, but even harder knowing I’d be going through everything alone. My Mom was there for me the whole time, even at his birth. She even held him before I did. One day when I was maybe halfway through my pregnancy we went out to dinner, between my midwife visit and the birthing class. We lived on the Island then, and we lived on the far north, while everything was down south – and a good 30 miles or so apart. There was an Italian restaurant near the end of the island. We went there and perused the menu. What I remember is we split a Caprese Salad. It was phenomenal The tomatoes were ripe, the olive oil fruity. And the mozzarella I hadn’t known it came that way. It was one of those first awakenings I had to real food. She and I sat there and quietly enjoyed our treat. My Dad would have blanched at it.
To you Mom, I offer this lunch as a toast to my memory of a life not lived long enough. The last time I talked with my Mom, she was in a hospital. I didn’t handle it gracefully, I knew in my soul she wasn’t going to recover. We talked and she kept falling asleep. I didn’t know what to do. We said goodbye and Kirk drove me into the mountains and I spent a very lonely day staring at rock and snow.
So in that long way, as I thought about her all day, I set out to make a Caprese Salad once again, just for me. No one else was interested which simply meant I enjoyed a luscious lunch by myself. The simplicity of the salad is everything, which was why I found Cook’s recipe so fussy (cubed salad? With dressing? Please!).
It was a good lunch, and it put a smile on my face! Mom would have loved it.
- Small ripe tomatoes, used “cocktail” size
- Fresh basil leaves
- Fresh mozzarella
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fine sea salt
Rinse and gently dry tomatoes. Slice a thin piece off the top and bottom to pretty up each tomato, discard. Thinly slice the tomatoes.
Drain mozzarella, slice same thickness as tomatoes.
To assemble, make alternating layers of tomatoes and cheese, inserting basil leaves (preferably small ones) between, garnish as desired with larger leaves.
Drizzle olive oil over the top, dusting generously with pepper and salt.
Serving size depends on how many you are serving. For myself, I used 4 “cocktail” sized tomatoes (these are smaller than an average hot-house tomato, yet bigger than a cherry tomato). For best taste, make sure your fresh mozzarella is packed in water, take out what you need and leave the rest in the water. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top is wonderful as well.