Spring Caprese Lunch
Welcome the season with this bold, vibrant, and easy menu.
Each recipe serves 4.
I first tasted this menu on the island of Capri, Italy. It began with a visit to a local buffalo mozzarella dairy in the countryside on the mainland. The pampered female water buffalo are treated to a spa environment, complete with individual beds, cooling showers, and “self-serve” massage rollers. The happy water buffalo line up for milking when they wish, producing the luscious milk for the salty, rich “mozzarella di bufalo” of the region. I tasted samples of the delicious cheese just 20 minutes after milking and ended the tour with sweet buffalo milk gelato in a cone.
That afternoon, I boarded a ferry to Capri for a late lunch in a romantic hillside restaurant overlooking the harbor.
Savory, soft buffalo mozzarella (from the dairy we visited) was included in several restaurant dishes, including salads, pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. I sipped sweet and tart limoncello, both in an aperitivo and, later, as a creamy dessert topping for buffalo milk gelato.
4 oz. limoncello, chilled
16 oz. prosecco, chilled
16 oz. club soda, chilled
1 lemon, quartered
4 twists lemon peel or 4 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish
Divide limoncello, prosecco, and club soda among four glasses (1 oz. limoncello, 4 oz. prosecco, 4 oz. club soda). Squeeze juice from a lemon quarter into each glass, then garnish with lemon peel or mint leaf.
Unlike Sicily’s sweet and sour eggplant spread, Capri’s caponata is a luscious tuna and cheese salad.
2 cups stale bread, cubed or packaged croutons
4 large ripe tomatoes
5 Tbsp. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. salt
12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed (about 2 cups)
½ cup celery, chopped
12 oz. tuna packed in olive oil, drained
(or water-packed tuna mixed with 2 Tbsp. oil)
½ cup green olives, sliced
10 basil leaves, chopped or ½ tsp. dried basil
2 cups arugula
1 lemon, quartered
Place stale bread into salad bowl. Chop the tomatoes into 1-inch chunks, place them in a separate bowl, and toss with olive oil and salt, letting stand for 10 minutes. Toss tomatoes and their juices into the salad bowl. Add mozzarella, celery, tuna, olives, and basil to the salad bowl and toss well. Let sit for 30 minutes and serve at room temperature on a bed of arugula with a lemon quarter.
Grilled Eggplant Caprese
This dish is delicious as is, or tucked into focaccia as a sandwich.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. grated garlic
½ tsp. salt
8 slices of eggplant (1-inch thick)
8 slices tomato (¼-inch thick) or thick tomato sauce
8 oz. fresh mozzarella (½-inch thick)
4 leaves basil, sliced or ½ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. each salt and pepper
Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic Glaze (optional)
Combine olive oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl; set aside. Preheat a grill to high.* Brush eggplant slices with oil mixture, place on the grill, and cook for 3-4 minutes per side. Place one slice each of tomato and mozzarella cheese on each eggplant slice. Close the lid, or cover, and cook until cheese has melted, 3-4 minutes. Transfer eggplant stacks to a plate, sprinkle with basil, salt, pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic.
*May also use stovetop or oven.
Crema di Limoncello
8 oz. limoncello
8 oz. heavy cream**
Mix limoncello with cream. Chill and serve in four tiny glasses.
**Limoncello may be poured over vanilla ice cream for dessert instead.
-by Lori Ross