Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette ~ this juicy, fruity, tomato salad with creamy slices of fresh mozzarella, peppery basil leaves, and the velvety tang of Kalamata is what summer is ALL about.
The summer isn’t allowed to pass around here without a whole lot of these chunky tomato salads for dinner. At least once a week. This is the kind of meal that becomes the picture of August in your mind’s eye (it’ll haunt you and sustain you through the long winter months.) The colors change depending on what’s at the market, and I’ll definitely change up the dressing, if there is any. Sometimes the tomatoes are so honey sweet there’s no need. But however I serve them, it’ll be pronto, these aren’t the kind of things you keep sitting around on your counter.
When you think about it, the olives and the tomatoes are both fruits, so this is one glorious summer fruit salad!
I decided that a rich Kalamata olive vinaigrette would complement the sweetness of this heirloom tomato caprese salad. I can’t resist those silky purple/black olives, they have such an intense flavor. I whiz them up with fresh garlic, olive oil and California balsamic vinegar ~ can you imagine the flavor? You’ll just have to try it yourself.
I went a little nuts over heirlooms this year, but I’m not making any excuses. They’re such a pleasure, and the eating part is only half of it. Whenever I encounter them I like to linger and take my time deciding which ones need to come home with me.
Fondling heirloom tomatoes is a no-no, they’re super delicate… but I do anyway. I’m looking for firm flesh ~ if they’re soft, they’re bruised. It’s sad, because you hate to see them go to waste, but that’s part of the deal when you don’t breed a vegetable to be hardy enough to cross the country in a tractor trailer. I’ll take delicious over hardy any day.
I always try to get as much of a color range as I can because I love the way the subtle tones play off each other.
You can grow heirloom tomatoes yourself, but, spoiler alert, it’s not easy. Here’s a guide to some of the best heirlooms to grow yourself. Unless you have a pretty skilled green thumb, better to find them at your local farmers market or grocery store that has the best product department.
Kalamatas aside, a classic Italian tomato salad needs only fresh basil and fresh mozzarella to complete it. I do add some thinly sliced red onion because I love that sharpness.
The creaminess of fresh mozzarella, whether cow’s milk, buffalo, or burrata, makes a big difference in this heirloom tomato caprese salad. The general rule of thumb ~ fresh mozzarella is made for eating raw, so save the shrink wrapped balls for your ‘za.
- Fresh mozzarella is softer and creamier than regular ‘low moisture’ mozzarella. It’s also more perishable. It often comes in plastic tubs, floating in whey. You can buy it in many different sized balls, from tiny ‘pearls’ all the way up to a one pound ball. For my salad I used 4 bocconcini, which are the size of eggs.
- Buffalo mozzarella is fresh mozzarella made with, yup, buffalo milk. Water buffalo milk, to be exact. The cheese has more flavor and a higher fat content than regular fresh mozzarella, and it’s considered a delicacy.
- Burrata is fresh mozzarella cheese mixed with cream, and has an inner layer of soft cream that oozes out when you slice into it, it’s pure decadence.
- You can actually make your own fresh mozzarella at home, it’s on my bucket list.
I’ve used all kinds of mozzarella here on the blog, from the tiniest perline in my MICRO CAPRESE SALAD, to the slightly larger pearles on my GUACAMOLE BRUSCHETTA. My FRIED ROSEMARY MOZZARELLA BALLS and my favorite ANTIPASTO SKEWERS feature the next size up, ciliegine.
Notice I didn’t slice my tomatoes for this salad, like I usually do. Heirloom tomatoes are famously mis-shapen, and can’t always be sliced evenly. They often have lumps and bumps which beg to being lopped off in big juicy chunks.
TIP: Tomatoes start to go downhill the minute you slice into them, so plan to eat the salad soon after you make it.
Remember, a good tomato is a good tomato, no matter what color, and buying heirloom tomatoes doesn’t guarantee you anything. Go with what tastes good and you’ll be good :)
- 4-6 good sized heirloom tomatoes, in assorted colors
- a handful of multi-colored cherry tomatoes
- a large handful of fresh plucked basil leaves
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 4 bocconcini sized balls of fresh mozzarella, about 7 ounces, sliced
- 1 cup Kalamata olives.
- 5 Kalamata olives, pitted
- 1 clove garlic
- 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (possibly more for thinning)
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- fresh basil leaves
- fresh thyme
- Chop the heirloom tomatoes into large bite sized chunks. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
- Put the onions, tomatoes, and basil into a large shallow salad bowl. Nestle the mozzarella slices in and among the tomatoes. Scatter the olives across the top. Add more fresh cracked pepper over all and garnish with more basil and thyme.
- Use a small food processor to blitz the vinaigrette ~ add more olive oil if it is too thick. Taste and add more vinegar if you like, and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve the salad lightly drizzled with the dressing, and provide extra on the side.
- This salad is best eaten right away.
Make it your own ~
- Can’t find heirlooms? Of course use red ripe tomatoes for this salad, they are wonderful.
- If you use burrata cheese, place it in the center of your salad bowl or platter, and scoop some out with each serving.
- Skip the Kalamata vinaigrette and serve with a traditional drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or a thicker balsamic syrup.