With summer drawing to a close, and with it, the end of tomato season, I’m trying to get my fill of sugar-sweet sundrenched tomatoes. Caprese salad is always a favorite during this time of year, but I love doing a bite-size version of this classic with a rainbow assortment of heirloom cherry tomatoes. Using cherry tomatoes not only opens up a new options for presentation, it also allows you to pickle the tomatoes first.
I like to use a brine made with plenty of sea salt and vincotto. The salt helps amplify the naturally occurring glutamic acids in tomatoes imbuing them with an intense umami that makes each gem taste as flavorful as it looks. Vincotto literally translates to “cooked wine”, but is actually a molasses-like syrup made from unfermented grape must. Its burnt umber color intensifies the red hue of the tomatoes, and its sweet fruity taste makes each morsel burst into a pool of delicious flavor in your mouth.
Because the waxy skins on the cherry tomatoes slows down the absorption of the brine, I like to peel the tomatoes. It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds, and all it takes is a pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water to quickly cook the skin, and then stop the cooking, before the flesh starts to cook.
You can peel and marinate the tomatoes ahead of time, making this a perfect party-side or canape. To make it a side salad, just combine the tomatoes and mozzarella balls in a bowl and top with basil leaves. To turn this into a canapé just skewer a tomato with a basil wrapped mozzarella ball.
Bite-Sized Caprese Salad
- 24 heirloom cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vincotto
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 24 baby mozzarella balls
- 24 basil leaves
- Prepare a bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the tomatoes for about 20 seconds to make them easier to peel. Quickly transfer to the ice water bath to prevent them from cooking and then use a paring knife to peel the tomatoes.
- Toss the peeled cherry tomatoes with the salt, vin cotto, olive oil and red wine vinegar and let them marinate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight (in the refrigerator).
- When you're ready to serve them, drain the mozzarella and wrap a basil leaf around each ball of mozzarella. Skewer a marinated tomato and then skewer the basil-wrapped mozzarella.
- Serve immediately.
Yield: 24 canapes
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.