Another week has flown by, so fortunately, the recipe this week for French Fridays with Dorie is another super simple one: mozzarella, tomato and strawberry salad. The shopping was the hardest part of this recipe. Salad Caprese (tomato and mozzarella salad without strawberry) is a summer staple at my house once the local tomatoes are in, so I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of adding strawberries into an already beloved dish. You never know until you try, so I was game to try Dorie’s version from Around My French Table.
This recipe was so simple that the ingredients are key. Where I live in Massachusetts, tomatoes aren’t truly in season yet. Dorie said to use the best you could get, so I opted for an off-season stand-in, greenhouse-grown tomatoes from Backyard Tomatoes in Maine. Their cocktail tomatoes are a little bigger than cherry tomatoes and have a similar concentrated flavor. While not as good as a late July tomato grown in the sunshine would be, they worked pretty well. And, strawberry season is over in late July. This was the moment for this salad.
Visually, I’d say this salad is gorgeous. The color of the strawberries and tomatoes together was intensely vibrant, and especially striking with the very white cheese. I didn’t have pink peppercorns, but found some pink Hawaiian salt in the pantry, so used that for a sprinkle of extra color. My basil plants are still more like seedlings, but I have other plentiful herbs growing outside the door. I used a sprig of lemon balm (melissa officinalis) which lent a citrusy, floral flavor. A little drizzle of extra virgin olive and balsamic vinegar, and it was salad.
How did it taste? It was definitely interesting. I liked the surprise of the strawberries as I ate. I couldn’t really get my head around the idea of fruit in a savory salad, and even though I was the cook and knew they were there, I just didn’t expect to taste strawberries with the tomatoes.
The star of this dish was the cheese. Dorie mentioned that this would be really good with burrata. Have you ever had burrata? I first had it on a trip to California about three years ago, shortly after seeing it mentioned in a glossy food magazine (Bon Appetit?) and having no idea what it was. It looks like a ball of fresh mozzarella, but when you cut it open, the outer mozzarella shell is filled with creamy, buttery, very soft and rich curds. If you’ve never tried it, you should seek it out.
Burrata doesn’t seem to be widely available commercially in my area, but wanted more! The search was on. I knew of one local cheesemaker who made burrata, but I don’t actually care for the texture of their mozzarella. The past two summers, I have found containers of Bel Gioiosio Wisconsin-made burrata at Costco. It’s not bad, but not as good as my first taste in California. A week or two ago, I was happy to read about a new source, a local small-scale cheesemaker around Boston. The summer issue of Edible Boston has a lengthy article about Mozzarella House and mentioned that their cheese was for sale at a local market in my town (Wilson Farm). I knew I wanted to find this new burrata and try it in this salad.
Honestly, I can’t say enough about the cheese. It was such a treat! It lived up to my first California taste! It totally made this salad sing!
Overall, I thought this salad was interesting to eat and gorgeous to look at. It’s a true seasonal dish. The ingredients are so important that, with strawberries, this is more of once-a-year treat where I live. My husband won’t eat fruit in his savory food, so he didn’t try it, but I think it would be fun to serve to company because of its uniqueness. There’s also no reason not make this with other fruits that complement the creaminess of the cheese. I’m certainly glad that I tried it.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the other FFwD bloggers thought of the salad. With bloggers around the world, it’s not the peak of strawberry season everywhere, so it will be interesting to see what creative twists they’ve come up with. You can check out their links at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but do encourage you to buy Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table, and think about joining us on Fridays as we cook through the book together.