Summer's Palette

Summer's classic salad has to be the delightful combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and creamy mozzarella known as a Caprese Salad. This time of the year, variations on that theme make nearly a daily appearance in my home. What's not to love? It's fast, easy, delicious, and downright beautiful … and versatile. I've been known to tweak it often, adding something fun from my garden, the market, or our CSA box as extra ingredients make an appearance in my kitchen. But my favorite? Adding nectarines and fresh mint. The salad has never been better!

For me, this kind of salad wants to be served on a platter instead of a bowl. With all the gorgeous colors in it, it wants to be laid out like an artist's palette. Besides, when the salad's been enjoyed, it's easier to sop up the juices with chunks of tender bread from a platter than it would be in a bowl. A platter also gives our noses many opportunities to drink in the amazing aroma cast by the tomatoes, nectarines, and fresh herbs. What's not to love?

This salad pairs very well with the aforementioned bread and most any wine. Since it plays so well with others, pick your wine according to other dishes you are serving or put together an amazing al fresco lunch by adding some ribbons of proscuitto to this salad, grabbing a warm loaf of French bread to tear and enjoy, and pouring your favorite chilled white wine into glasses and have lunch on the patio or deck. Before you know it, summer will be giving way to falling leaves and cool breezes. Seize the moment and enjoy dishes like this while we have the chance!

Nectarine Caprese Salad

  • 1 lb. mixed ripe tomatoes - I like to use a combination of large and small ones for visual interest
  • 1 lb. ripe nectarines
  • 8 oz. buffalo mozzarella
  • 1 small bunch basil leaves
  • 1 small bunch mint leaves
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Slice the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. I like to make sure every tomato is sliced a bit, as the juices from the ripe tomatoes are a vital element in this salad. Remove the pits from the nectarines and slice them into thin wedges. Drain the buffalo mozzarella (if it's been stored in water) and tear it into bite-sized pieces.

On a serving platter, combine the tomatoes, nectarines, mozzarella, and basil and mint leaves. Tear any particularly large leaves, but leave some whole for color and texture.

Combine the remaining ingredients (balsamic vinegar through black pepper) in a small resealable jar and shake vigorously to combine. Drizzle generously over the prepared salad and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes