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Home with the Lost Italian: Celebrate the Fourth with Red, White & Blue Caprese Salad

Red White and Blue Caprese Salad features cherry tomatoes, blueberries, fresh mozzarella pearls and fresh basil for a refreshing and patriotic Fourth of July dish. Meagan Deanne / The Forum

We’re always looking for fun ways to celebrate a holiday through food, and this week’s Red, White & Blue Caprese Salad is an easy, yet delicious, way to showcase summer flavors at your Fourth of July festivities.

A traditional caprese salad is a simple dish featuring layers of sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and extra-virgin olive oil. For this holiday update, I’ve added fresh blueberries into the mix, along with marinated tomatoes and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

For presentation and practicality, this caprese salad features cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella pearls so that all the main components are of similar size and every bite features a burst of each flavor. Fresh mozzarella is a signature of the caprese salad, and this mellow, soft, sweet cheese comes in many forms that are widely available. Mozzarella pearls can be found in the specialty cheese sections of large grocery stores and at big-box stores like Sam’s Club and Costco.

This salad is simple to make, and using the pre-sized mozzarella pearls conveniently cuts down on the time needed to prep the ingredients. If you can’t find the pearls, you can use slightly larger bocconcini balls, or even slice and dice an 8-ounce mozzarella ball into thumbnail cubes.

This salad is at its best when the tomatoes are sweet and juicy, which is why I’ve chosen cherry tomatoes over grape, as the latter can be too firm and acidic for this recipe. To broaden the flavor profile of this typically mild salad, the cherry tomatoes are sliced in half and marinated in a simple mix of extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano flakes, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper for about 30 minutes before assembling and serving the salad.

Typically, a good extra-virgin olive oil is all the only dressing needed for a caprese salad, but with the addition of blueberries in this version I decided to add a sweet and sour balsamic vinaigrette, which complements their sweetness without overpowering the other ingredients. A little balsamic vinaigrette goes a long way, especially with a mellow dish like this one, so start with a small amount when adding to the salad. The dressing can be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve, and I also love to use it on fresh greens, over grilled chicken or even as a sandwich condiment.

This recipe serves four to six people and can easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate large gatherings. For maximum freshness, the salad is best when prepared within an hour of serving, as the tomatoes tend to break down in texture the longer they marinate. However, leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days and still taste good.

Simple, refreshing, nutritious and delicious, this Red, White & Blue Caprese Salad will bring a flair of patriotic flavor to your Independence Day festivities. Best wishes for a happy and safe Fourth of July!

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

Red, White & Blue Caprese Salad

Serves: 4 to 6

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Dash of red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano flakes

1 teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 ¼ cup blueberries

1 cup fresh mozzarella pearls or bocconcini

3 to 4 large basil leaves, torn into thumbnail pieces

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Balsamic vinaigrette (optional, see recipe below)

In a medium bowl, gently toss the halved cherry tomatoes with the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper until evenly coated. Set aside and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Add the blueberries and mozzarella and toss until incorporated. Add the basil leaves and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and toss to combine. To serve, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and/or balsamic vinaigrette. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.

Ingredients for Balsamic Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used white balsamic, but any balsamic vinegar will work)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a liquid blender, add the vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, salt and pepper and blend until fully combined. With the blender running, slowly pour the olive oil through the opening on the top and mix until the oil has fully emulsified. Taste and add more seasoning as desired. The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 week, stored in a Mason jar or airtight container. Shake or mix well before using. Makes about ½ cup.

Sarah’s Tips:

— A little Balsamic Vinaigrette goes a long way, especially with a mellow dish like this one, so start with a small amount when adding to the salad.

— Balsamic Vinaigrette is also great with fresh green salads, over grilled chicken or even as a sandwich condiment.

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