Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Review of "Pomodoro!" and a Gorgeous Insalata Caprese!


You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to, and in Italy they say pomodoro, which is also the name of the book that Rachel, The Crispy Cook and some of her lucky blogger friends (like me!) had a chance to read and review. "Pomodoro! A History of the Tomato in Italy" by David Gentilcore is all about the beloved tomato, before it became so loved in Italy.


This culinary history book traces the tomato on its travels from Central America where it originated, to Europe and then on to Italy specifically, where it was first regarded with suspicion and some disdain. Gentilcore, a professor of modern history, follows the tomato through the multiple centuries it took for it to become a staple and icon of Italian cooking. The book is mostly entertaining, although I did speed read through a few sections--250+ pages on the history of anything can get a bit monotonous for a short attention span girl like me! ;-) The sprinkling of old Italian recipes was probably my favorite part of the book and I tagged several dishes to make. There is also folklore, stories, pictures and of course plenty of history all woven together in one detailed celebration of the tomato.


For me personally, the best way to celebrate this juicy, colorful fruit is one of the simplest, the Caprese Salad or the Insalata Caprese, meaning a salad in the style of Capri, and originating in the Campania region of Italy. I could eat a well-made caprese every day and not get tired of it--fresh thick slices of freshly picked tomato, sprigs of basil from the garden and creamy slices of fresh mozzarella, drizzled with the best olive oil you can get and a sprinkling of a wonderful salt. Perfection, celebration, heaven on a plate! There is no real need for a recipe but... along with being short attention span girl, I am also multi-tasking girl and it is "Say Cheese!" week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and therefore I chose to follow Mark Bittman's Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Salad recipe from the How to Cook Everything iPhone app, and thus combine my celebration of the tomato with a celebration of mozzarella. ;-)


Bittman says, "This is barely more than the three ingredients listed in the title, so all three must be of excellent quality. I like to salt the tomatoes a little bit before assembling the salad--it removes a little bit of their liquid--but it isn't necessary. (Deb says, "Darn tootin it isn't necessary--if you want to serve it with a baguette toasted with olive oil, you'll want all that yummy tomato juice-olive oil-salty goodness to soak up!")

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad, (
Insalata Caprese)
"How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bittman
(Makes 4 Servings)

4 perfectly ripe medium tomatoes
salt
8 slices 1/4-inch thick, fresh mozzarella cheese, plus more if desired
8 large fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper (optional)
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Core and cut the tomatoes into about 1/4-inch thick slices. If you like lay them on a board and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Set the board at an angle so the liquid can drain into the sink (or bowl; it makes a refreshing drink.)

Layer the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil on a platter or 4 individual plates. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.


Notes/Results: Sheer perfection! Juicy, ripe, fresh North Shore Farms Tomatoes--both red and yellow and cut thickly, basil straight from my container garden, fresh mozzarella--also cut very thickly, olive oil and a little perfect pink Murray River Gourmet Grinder Salt from Australia. Not a thing more. My Mom is in town visiting and we shared this as a starter for dinner along with some crunchy/chewy toasted baguette. When you can get the best, freshest ingredients make this often and savor it, preferably outside with a glass of your favorite wine--it is the best way to hold on to summer.


Thanks to Rachel, The Crispy Cook for arranging our Pomodoro Party. Rachel will be rounding up all the tomato dishes inspired by the book on her blog soon.

This dish also goes to IHCC--"Say Cheese!" where you can see other cheesy delights that the rest of the gang made.

Finally I am sending it to the event formerly know as Two for Tuesdays, now Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, co-hosted by girlichef and other fabulous bloggers and celebrating food that nourishes your mind, body and soul.

Hope your week is going well!

23 comments:

Jess @ Bakericious said...

so colorful, looks very nice.

K and S said...

lovely colors!

Joanne said...

This sounds like such a fun book! Tomatoes have recently become one of my favorite fruits...and I scorn my ancestors for not being immediately enthralled with it!

Caprese salads truly are the best. They never fail to make me smile.

Foodycat said...

Look at your pretty tomatoes! How delicious.

MM said...

You are my kinda gal. I think the tomato juices/goop are the best part. Don't want to waste that!

Rachel said...

I liked reading those old Italian recipes in the book too. Gorgeous salad!

Pierce said...

Ya had me at Insalata Caprese! Just made one that didn't hold a candle to yours. I am going to check out that book the History of Tomatoes.

Priya (Yallapantula) Mitharwal said...

Deb, that sounds like an interesting book. I love pomodoro sauce anyways, so will surely try to get my hands on it. and that Caprese looks awesome.

Kim said...

Deb - That is one gorgeous caprese salad. Such a pretty presentation with the red and yellow tomatoes! And, such a great choice for Say Cheese week.

I hope you and your mom have a wonderful visit!

Christy said...

This Insalta Caprese looks out this world delicious - the different colors are beautiful. I eat tomatoes every day when I can get them straight from the farmer!
Thank you for sharing this with hearth'nsoul!

Mary said...

You've convinced me to search out the book. The salad looks wonderful and your touch of special salt will make it divine. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

Butterpoweredbike said...

So colorful. I come from a family of history lovers, but I just can't get into it. But maybe I could get into a book which had some food history! Thanks for linking up with Hearth and Soul.

Reeni said...

How funny that tomatoes were looked on with disdain in Italy! Sounds like a good read. And your salad is stunning!

Deborah Dowd said...

These are so pretty almost like a work of food art!

a moderate life said...

Debs! I see you like Bittman too! :) He is my hero! I love love love this salad and most summers eat it until it is coming out my...hehehe....One thing i hate to see if people ordering this in the winter at an italian restaurant. Making it with anything other than the ripest tomatoes is a sham i say! Thanks for sharing on the hearth n soul hop! :) Alex@amoderatelife

girlichef said...

I really wanted to read this and join in, but I couldn't find the book anywhere around here and couldn't afford to order it, so... I'll live vicariously through you. Gorgeous salad & tomatoes. And thanks for sharing it w/ hns, Deb =)

girlichef said...

I really wanted to read this and join in, but I couldn't find the book anywhere around here and couldn't afford to order it, so... I'll live vicariously through you. Gorgeous salad & tomatoes. And thanks for sharing it w/ hns, Deb =)

Claudia said...

The book sounds interesting. Though, I've always enjoyed finding pre-tomato Italian recipes. Referred to by some as more authentic representatives, but who can resist a Salad Caprese?

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

I'm with you! The more juice the better! Caprese salads and a simple bruschetta (without peeling or seeding the tomatoes) is the best way to eat gorgeous fresh tomatoes like those.

She's Cookin' said...

I'm with you! The more juice the better! Caprese salads and a simple bruschetta (without peeling or seeding the tomatoes) is the best way to eat gorgeous fresh tomatoes like those.

Chow and Chatter said...

wow lovely salad have a good weekend

Foodjunkie said...

Insalata Caprese is one of those perfect ways to enjoy just perfect ingredients. I was also tempted to skip pages on the book, but decided not to. I am a bit of a geek about information sometimes. Oh, and I can't believe I had never heard of MarkBittman. He is such a character! Thank you for intrucing me to him. :-)

Couscous & Consciousness said...

Deb, I love a Caprese salad - one of those absolutely unbeatable combos - and yours looks absolutely stunning :-)
Sue