Monday, May 24, 2010

Above Average: Salad with Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil, and Olives

I’ve made this salad before and it’s always good. But something happened when I made it for our dinner last night. I’m really not sure what the difference was, but it was way better than usual. Both Dave and I thought so. As we ate, we kept repeating, “Wow! This is really good!”

I don’t have an exact recipe for you. But I’ll tell you about how I generally make this salad and what I did that might have made it go from good to excellent this time. I never measure. I just throw together mixed baby lettuces, mini tomatoes (usually mini pearls or grape tomatoes from Trader Joe’s), marinated mozzarella balls, fresh basil, and sometimes kalamata olives. I eyeball it and add a little more red (tomatoes), green (lettuce, basil), black (olives), or white (mozzarella) until the balance seems about right. I then add a basic combination of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (nothing too fancy for either one), usually with a little garlic, salt, and pepper.

So, that’s the basic salad I’ve done quite a few times. What was different this time? Well, I found myself shopping at Safeway, which is unusual, and I used their baby lettuce mix. It’s pretty standard, but I do think it has more spinach than most of the bagged lettuce mixes. Dave commented that he really liked all the hearty spinach leaves. I also got tomatoes there – Nature Sweet Cherubs. They were definitely sweet and yummy. Next, instead of using my own olive oil for the dressing, I used the herby oil from the Trader Joe’s marinated mozzarella balls. I’ve done that before, so I don’t think that made all the difference. I do think it may have had something to do with the garlic: At my regular grocery store, Fred Meyer, they only had purple stripe garlic as opposed to the ordinary white skinned garlic they usually carry. And I did notice, as I selected a head, it was very aromatic. And when I minced it up for the dressing, it was juicier, and again, more aromatic than I’m used to. Finally, I added a little extra fresh basil to the dressing – something I don’t usually do since there’s already basil in the salad itself.

I still don’t really know what specifically made the salad so much better than usual, but Dave insisted I write down exactly what I did, so we could make it again. I didn’t actually measure or count anything however, so this is just to the best of my recollection:

Mozzarella Salad with Tomatoes, Basil, and Olives  PRINTABLE RECIPE

Safeway baby lettuce mix – about 3/4 of the bag
Nature Sweet Cherubs (tomatoes) – most of the container – halved lengthwise
Trader Joe’s marinated mozzarella balls – most of the container – halved
About a dozen or so large fresh basil leaves – cut into thin ribbons
About a dozen pitted kalamata olives – quartered

Approximately half the oil from the marinated mozzarella balls
1/4 cup or so balsamic vinegar
1 purple stripe garlic clove – finely minced
1 or 2 medium to large fresh basil leaves – finely minced
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper – to taste

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together. Pour dressing over salad and toss, or spoon dressing over individual salad servings – that’s what we did this time. (Note: we had leftover dressing).

Good luck! I hope yours turns out fantastic!

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