Tasty Tuesdays – Caprese Salad

Insalata Caprese is traditionally made using only five ingredients; buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and salt.  How easy is that?!  I have made a few changes to the customary recipe because of taste preferences, for instance using bocconcini rather than mozzarella, adding fresh cracked black pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  Both versions are delicious and easy to prepare.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 100g bocconcini (approximately 1/2 200g container)
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves (which I harvested from the Seed To Feed UHN Real Food Garden)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions

  • Slice cherry tomatoes in half and bocconcini balls in similar sized pieces.
  • Chop fresh basil and combine in a bowl with tomatoes and bocconcini.
  • Pour olive oil over and toss well.
  • Add salt & pepper to taste, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar

Interesting Facts

Basil is one of my favourite herbs and I absolutely adore the smell.  It is native to India, Asia and Africa but is popular in many cuisines throughout the world (Soule, 2011).  This highly fragrant plant has over 60 varieties, all with distinctive appearances, tastes and smells.  Basil is a great source of magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, beta carotene and vitamins C and K (USDA, 2012).  Magnesium relaxes the smooth muscles of arteries which improves blood flow and decreases irregular heart rhythms to promote cardiovascular fitness (D’Angelo et al., 1992).  The beta carotene in basil is converted by the body to vitamin A which happens to be a well known antioxidant. In fact, vitamin A has been specifically shown to inhibit the oxidation of cholesterol in the blood stream which prevents atherosclerosis and further improves cardiovascular fitness (Shaish et al., 1995).  In addition to the many vitamins and minerals present in basil, this remarkable herb also contains multiple flavonoids.  Interestingly, two of the flavonoids found in basil, orientin and vicenin, have been observed to have significant protective effects on human white blood cells against radiation (Vrinda and Devi, 2001).  Current research with these flavonoids hopes to demonstrate their clinical potential in cancer therapy. Lastly, the volatile oils contained within the basil plant are known to inhibit the growth of bacteria such as E. coli (Hammer et al., 1999) and even certain antibiotic resistant bacterial strains (Opalchenova et al., 2003). Furthermore, a recent study by Bagamboula et al. (2004) showed that washing produce in a solution containing a small concentration of basil oil decreased the number of diarrhea causing infectious bacteria.  This amazing antiseptic property can potentially protect all those who eat uncooked salads. So if you don’t want to get sick from the salad bar, remember to toss some basil into your mix!

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