I love tomato season, but have always been a bit “meh” about Caprese salad. I never spent much time thinking about why – probably because I’m perfectly satisfied to keep myself busy stuffing my face with ripe tomatoes sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt.
But, I’ve had a recent revelation. Last month, Mike and I went to a Spade & Plow + Manresa Bread farm dinner at the newish MB all day cafe in Campbell. The standout dish was a bowl of burrata drowned in good olive oil with S&P Sungold and Atomic Fusion cherry tomatoes, some tiny fried fennel flowers and sea salt on top. I was too busy enjoying the bowl and experiencing a mind shift to take a photo, but here’s one from S&P’s Instagram page.
As I savored the dish, I had a revelation. What I love about perfectly ripe tomatoes is their deep umami quality. For my palate, the balsamic vinegar that is often drizzled over a Caprese salad takes away from this. The acid overwhelms the more subtle earthiness of the umami flavor.
My revelation is this: when I have perfectly ripe tomatoes, I am not going to overpower them with acid. To me, their best accompaniment is a generous glug of olive oil and some coarse sea salt, or a herbed sea salt blend. Maybe a few shreds of fresh basil if it’s available.
Acid has it’s time and place with tomatoes – such as if the tomatoes are part of a larger green salad, or part of a simpler salad of tomatoes, cucumber & red onion. But for me, from here on out – if I simply want to enjoy the umami of a perfect tomato, olive oil and sea salt are all I need.