Monday, April 11, 2011

Caprese, Caprese, Caprese....

Recently, I was curled up on my sofa, flipping through the pages of my new FoodNetwork magazine, when something gave me pause. I sat there, staring at the picture on the page, in a trance.

The recipe immediately went to the top of the “things to make the next time Ginny visits” list.

Can’t imagine something so dramatic that it would completely monopolize my thoughts? I know, its hard to imagine…..because, you know, that NEVER happens. (you recognize snark when you see it, I hope)

This recipe though, combines two of my favorite things.

Eating….and drinking.

One of the early dishes that I can remember Ginny and I falling in love with as we picked our way down our culinary yellow brick road together, is Caprese Salad. Back then it was a rare sight on restaurant menus and few people I ran into even knew what it was. Gradually it has made its way into the foodie mainstream and has endured countless variations.  While I am still partial to the original, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I couldn’t resist trying this one.

Caprese Martini.

You heard me. MARTINI.

Since I have basil growing on my counter and fresh mozzarella is so much easier to get these days, the bottle of vodka came down from the rack and we indulged.

I will grant you that we made a couple of tiny changes and our picture isn’t anywhere near as gorgeous as the one featured in FoodNetwork, but it certainly was tasty.

Caprese Martini
  • 1 pound tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 1/2 cups vodka (half of a 750-ml bottle)
  • Kosher salt
  • 16 grape tomatoes
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 bunch basil
  • 8 small mozzarella balls (bocconcini) – we used the little baby “pearls” and wrapped them in basil leaves
  • We also added a dash of lemon juice
Put the tomato slices in a large glass container or pitcher. Add the vodka (make sure it covers the tomatoes) and a pinch of salt; let infuse 6 to 12 hours at room temperature. Strain the vodka, then chill until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, prick the grape tomatoes with a skewer; toss with the balsamic vinegar in a bowl and marinate 4 hours at room temperature.
Drain the grape tomatoes, reserving the vinegar. Bring the vinegar to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until syrupy, about 20 minutes; let cool.
For each drink, drizzle some of the balsamic syrup into the bottom of a chilled martini glass. Muddle 2 to 3 basil leaves with a splash of tomato-infused vodka in a cocktail shaker. Add another 1 1/2 ounces tomato-infused vodka and 1 cup ice; shake and strain into the glass. Skewer 2 marinated grape tomatoes, 2 basil leaves and a mozzarella ball on a cocktail pick and set in the martini.

***NOTES: while we did alter the recipe somewhat, it turned out fabulously. Instead of steeping the tomatoes in the vodka, we just muddled some tomatoes and basil in it at the last minute (because really, I don’t plan my martinis 6-12 hours in advance). Also, we didn’t reduce 2 cups of balsamic vinegar to make a syrup. I keep very good balsamic vinegar on hand so we just used some of that instead of  using so much pricey vinegar for a couple of martinis.  So, its not the most photogenic drink in the world, what with the tomato seeds floating at the bottom, and the vodka being a bit murky (who doesn’t love a dirty martini?), but a delicious little taste treat on a hot Sunday afternoon, nonetheless.