To Capri and Back

Everyone loves a good Caprese salad. The emphasis being on good: there's no point to a plate of tomato and mozzarella if the tomatoes are rock hard and as flavoursome as cardboard. So obviously, in May, when one is craving a nice salad, the Caprese would not be the first choice. However, if it's the soft mozarella you're hankering after, there is a way.

British asparagus are just about hitting their stride (they should not be far off in North-America), so -not surprisingly- I have been gorging on asparagus whenever possible. In fact, I've made a point of having asparagus at least every other day since the beginning of the month. And I will not slow down until the season ends in a couple of weeks.

So. About that salad. It's really not that complicated. Take a ball of mozzarella or a few bocconcini out of the whey, and leave at room temperature for at least half an hour. Mozzarella has such a delicate flavour that it is best appreciated at room temperature. You do want to use fresh mozzarella for this salad, keep the dried stuff for pizza and lasagne. If splurging is in order, go for some buffalo mozzarella or a creamy burrata. Meanwhile, boil or steam some asparagus until they are just barely done: squeeze a spear or two at the bottom end, if there is some give, they're ready.

Pile the asparagus on a plate -or two if you are sharing. Roughly tear the balls of cheese, and drape over the asparagus. Drizzle with a nice olive oil, or better yet use a nut oil: hazelnut really brings out the nutty notes in asparagus, but walnut may be a little easier to find. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a fresh grind of pepper.

Purists will cry out that a real Caprese salad is NEVER drenched with balsamic vinegar, but this isn't a classic Caprese: it's asparagus with mozzarella. And balsamic vinegar -it needn't be an expensive one- is rather nice over the green spears. There is no need to drown the salad in vinegar, just a few drops are enough to bring out the sweetness and counter notes of wilted grass. (That last remark may sound a little cryptic, but if you've ever had tinned asparagus you will understand...)

No need for sprigs of basil either, they would be superfluous. However, you will need to serve a generous amount of bread with this salad, as you will want to mop up all those lovely juices on the plate.

Bon app'!


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