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In the hot days of summer Arizona, I’m always looking for something cool to make for dinner.  And by “cool,” I don’t mean “cutting edge” or “hip,” I mean c-o-l-d.  As in “not heating up my kitchen,” and “cool, refreshing, chilled.”  When I paired that desire with a tall basil plant I bought at Trader Joe’s (and yes, I’ve already given it a big haircut when I made pesto), I realized that I had the makings for a caprese salad – with toast.

Most often, Caprese salad is served as an insalata, or an appetizer.  But Mark & I had one at the Dexter Pub (of all places) that was enough for a light meal, and it was delightful.  Mirroring the colours in the flag of Italy and hailing from Capri, its alternate name is insalata tricolore, or three-coloured salad.  I love it because it’s a cold dish, but also a good source of protein from the fresh mozarella.

This dish is somewhat Americanized with the use of balsamic vinaigrette, but I think it’s a shame to waste a good balsamic vinegar (which originates with grapes), and it goes very well with this dish.  I tried a three-cheese balsamic vinaigrette from Fresh & Easy with romano, parmesan, and asiago in it – it was a chunky dressing but oh-so-good.  You could use any balsamic dressing of your choice – there are some really good ones out there.

There’s no official recipe for this meal, but this is what I did:

I started with a whole-grain baguette from Fry’s, which is the Kroger affiliate out in these parts.  I would bake the bread normally, except that I don’t have a baguette pan – yet.  I sliced them on the thick side and toasted them in a 300F oven for a solid 30 minutes, until they were brown and crispy.

The fresh mozarella is the kind in whey and in its container, looks like little round balls of white.  Fresh & Easy sells an 8 oz package for $3; I’m used to seeing prices up toward $6 for the same size container in grocery stores in Michigan.  Regardless, I sliced the fresh moz balls in to three pieces and set them aside while I sliced fresh roma tomatoes.

I cut my fresh basil leaves on the bias to get the most flavour, fragrance, and open edge to the leaf as possible and then set out to assemble these little beauties.

I started with the crusty baguette pieces, topped it with a tomato slice (seasoned with sea salt), a few pieces of fresh mozarella, and sprinkled fresh basil atop it all.  When a plate was completed, I drizzled the balsamic vinaigrette on, around, and over the stacked creations and served them up.

Brendan wasn’t a huge fan (he said the texture of the mozzarella wasn’t his favourite), but he did eat his portion of them.  Mark & I scarfed them down, and for a change, I didn’t sit at the table for dinner trying to cool off or killing the overhead light and opening the blinds so we could see each other and I didn’t have to melt at the same time.

Buon appetito!

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