I just love Italian food. It's vegetarian friendly, chock full of fresh herbs and cheeses and always very comforting to eat. Nothing soothes me more during the bitterly cold winter then a nice plate of baked ziti, lasagna or the like. But, those heavier dishes wouldn't seem as appropriate now during the toasty summer months, so when planning last night's meal I looked for lighter inspiration.
I decided to cheat, and buy frozen ravioli. We're lucky - here in Brooklyn there are several companies that make excellent frozen ravioli. Nothing pleases me more then browsing the multitude of choices in the Fratelli Ravioli (www.fratelliravioli.com) freezer (yes, they have their own freezer just for their ravioli) at our local grocery store. Whole wheat tofu spinach, pesto, spinach, lobster (doesn't appeal to me but its a choice), sundried tomato, stuffed shells . . . the list just goes on. So, sometimes I take the easy way out and splurge on their tasty products. They're not exactly cheap running at approximately ten dollars for sixteen ravioli, but the quality is good and way easier then making my own ravioli.
I wanted a fresh sauce to pair with my cheese ravioli, so I decided to try the Chunky Garden-Tomato sauce posted on the Cooking Light website. Of course, lacking a garden I had to actually buy tomatoes but the concept of the sauce seemed appealing. But then I didn't buy quite enough tomatoes, and had to throw in a can of diced which kind of marred the freshness of the sauce. Overall it was a tasty sauce that paired well with the ravioli and a side of homemade garlic bread.
And to start the meal, I decided a little caprese salad was in order. I love caprese salad. I could eat it every day and be happy. There is something about the sweetness of the ripe tomatoes, the creaminess of the fresh mozzeralla, the tang of fresh basil coupled with the mellowness of olive oil and basalmic vinegar - what's not to love? That qualifies as my idea of heaven. M. teased me when we spent a few days in Italy on our honeymoon two years ago because I think I had caprese salad every day while we were there. I just love it, and last night became the official launch of caprese salad season in our house.
My notes - I typically make caprese salad free-form, just adding the ingredients and winging amounts. But for the unfamiliar, this Cooking Light recipe would be a good place to start.
Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, and Basil Salad
Cooking Light Magazine
Cooking Light's notes - In Italy, this is known as insalata caprese (Capri-style salad). It's best in summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. If you can get imported Buffalo mozzarella from Italy, use it, but domestic fresh mozzarella is fine, as well. Fresh mozzarella cheese is packed in water. It has a softer texture and sweeter, more delicate flavor than the regular part-skim mozzarella that is more commonly used in cooking for its superior melting qualities. 4 tomatoes, each cut into 6 slices (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 12 slices
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Arrange 4 tomato slices and 2 mozzarella slices on each of 6 salad plates. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Top evenly with basil. Yield: 6 servings NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 150(64% from fat); FAT 10.7g (sat 5.8g,mono 1.9g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 7.8g; CHOLESTEROL 30mg; CALCIUM 231mg; SODIUM 138mg; FIBER 1.5g; IRON 0.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 5.4g
Chunky Garden Tomato Sauce
Cooking Light Magazine
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
5 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over pasta or polenta, or on crostini. Yield: 3 1/2 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup) NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 63(36% from fat); FAT 2.5g (sat 0.3g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.4g); PROTEIN 1.7g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 25mg; SODIUM 181mg; FIBER 2.4g; IRON 0.9mg; CARBOHYDRATE 10.2g