Sometimes a few simple ingredients come together to create something spectacular. The individual elements compliment each other so well that, when combined, the results are so delicious they border on magical. Think bacon and eggs; chocolate and strawberries; hot dogs, ketchup, and mustard.
To my mind, few dishes are as effortlessly flawless as a classic caprese salad composed of tart tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and fragrant basil. And while I wouldn't normally mess with perfection, I was intrigued by a recipe in the May issue of Bon Appetit that replaced the tomatoes with slices of fresh mango, and added radicchio to the mix.
A caprese salad with tropical and bitter flavors? I had to try it out for this week's magazine recipe review.
Instead of a simple drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a grind or two of fresh pepper, this version of the salad called for a basil vinaigrette made with white balsamic vinegar. I didn't have any on hand, and while I was temped to substitute regular balsamic, at the last minute I splurged on a bottle at the supermarket. Boy, am I glad I did: white balsamic is much milder and sweeter. The darker version would have been overpowering and far too acidic.
The salad was assembled in the traditional manner of overlapping layers on a plate. Visually, the results were stunning: red radicchio, orange mango, stark white mozzarella, and brilliant green basil—definitely a feast for the eyes. And it tasted pretty great, too.
The basil vinaigrette is something I will absolutely make again (it would be lovely even over simple mixed greens), and I liked the flavor combination of radicchio and mango. What I didn't quite love, however, was the taste of mango paired with mozzarella. I found the fruit a little intense for such a mild cheese; it was overpowering as opposed to complimentary.
Despite my one complaint, this salad is a dish I would prepare again. Especially since, as the recipe head note points out, great mangos—unlike great tomatoes—are available year-round.
About the author: Lucy Baker is a graduate student in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College. Before returning to school to pursue an MFA, she was an assistant cookbook editor at HarperCollins. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently obsessed with all things fennel.
- Yield:4 servings
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus 8 whole large basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 radicchio leaves, thick ends trimmed
- 2 large mangos, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 8 1/4-inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese (from an 8-ounce ball)
Blend the chopped basil, oil, and vinegar in a food processor or blender until basil is mostly pureed. Season with salt and pepper.
Overlap radicchio, mango, mozzarella, and basil leaves on plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve, passing additional vinaigrette on the side.