Friday, 7 December 2012

Caprese Salad

I am convinced that the live basil plant found in the 'living herbs' section, found in every supermarket in the land, is a complete racket.

The concept is simple: Buy a vaccuum pack of basil leaves for 80p, OR BUY A WHOLE PLANT FOR £1!!! No contest really. (a) The pack, once opened, is ruined - which means that you must eat the basil within an hour before the leaves get all soggy and shocked that they're now inhaling central London fumes and cooking smells after they were all used to being cosy in their hermetically-sealed plastic environment; (b) Who wants to eat a whole pack of basil in one sitting? The live plant will allow me to keep going back to the well for days (certainly)/weeks (hopefully)/months (can it be possible?)/years (dare I dream?) on end; (c) Live plants look good in my tiny kitchen - slightly like I'm living in Tuscany. All I need now is a lemon bush and an olive tree.

However, after TWO days, and a few snippets of leaves later, this is what my plumptuous basil plant looks like:

A ragbag of wilting blackening pulpy leaves and bent stalks.

Having tried every single tip on the internet to breathe life back into my herbal disaster zone (you can forget the care tips on the pack: 'Water when needed'. Bahh!), and failing miserably, I realised that I have been completely conned. The supermarket are injectingt the plants with fungus to get you to keep buying them! It doesn't matter where I live, how hot/cold my flat is, how sunny/dark my kitchen is, how much/little water I give the plant, how many times I crop/leave the plant alone, if I give/don't give the plant Baby Bio; the fact remains, I buy a new plant every week with the same steadfast optimism that 'this time, I KNOW where I am going to put it/when to water it/when to crop it' etc, but the plant curls up and dies within a day or two.

And I do buy a new plant every week. Why? Because basil rocks. I put it into as many dishes as I can justify: Italian, Thai, salads, stews and soups. Today's dish is a stalwart weekday light supper which I serve with some fresh bread and butter, and is so pretty and wholesome that Mrs Ribeye hardly notices that I've made very little effort.

Caprese salad is the simpler brother of the insalata tricolore. I barely buy avocados these days because I reckon only one in three is ever any good - and that is a risk-to-benefit ratio that I'm not happy with. Better to keep spending my money on those bloody basil plants...

Mozzarella cheeses seems to be getting cheaper and cheaper these days. A 125g ball of the cheap stuff is now 43p! Which means that this dish comes in at a crazily cheap £1.25 per serving.

Serves 2


2 x 125g balls of mozzarella cheese
4 plum tomatoes
Quarter of an iceberg lettuce
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Handful of fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Slice the cheese and tomatoes into 1cm thick rounds and arrange in rows on a plate. Finely chop the iceberg lettuce and place in a neat row down the centre of the plate. Sprinkle oregano over the cheese and tomato and dot the basil leaves around the edge. Dress the salad with the oil and vinegar (not on the basil) and season to taste. Serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's possible that your Basil plants have suffered from lack of warth, sunlight and water. In the spring/summer months I have (usually) managed to keep my going on the kitchen window sill (South West facing), where there is no draft...watering a little virtually everyday and then draining away excess water. I tried potting up a few in the garden and they did really well as long as I had sufficient slug pellets round the base as a preventive measure!!!
    Sorry you don't have the same luck. x


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