If there is one country’s food that I love above all else, it has to be Italy. Simple food, using the best ingredients, to be enjoyed without fuss or pretense. One of my ultimate favourite simple Italian dishes is a caprese salad: a combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese (fior di latte) and basil leaves. Add a splash of your best extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and I am in food heaven.
When we traveled in Greece during 2010, we discovered the genius Greek way of eating meats and salads inside a rolled up pita bread (souvlaki). It inspired me to try my caprese salad on a garlic pita bread, one that you can fold over and dip into balsamic vinegar before taking a huge bite while the juices of the tomatoes would run down your chin. It is so simple, yet one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had.
Another way to eat it would be to cover the caprese pita with another garlic pita, almost like a pita sandwich, and slice wedges for everyone to share. Whichever way you prefer, this is a winner combination, and one that I will surely be making for my grandkids in years to come.
Tip: Always use fresh, perfectly ripe, organic tomatoes, preferably ones that have not seen the inside of a refrigerator yet. They taste 100 times better than other tomatoes!
Ingredients for garlic pita: (makes 2 large pita’s)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour or white bread flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- topping: 6 large cloves or garlic, finely chopped or crushed, mixed with 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- dried oregano for sprinkling
Method for the garlic pita:
- In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix untill a sticky dough forms. Knead untill the dough becomes soft and pliable. Cover and let it rise in a warm area for about 15-30 minutes until doubled in size.
- On the middle rack of your oven, insert an untreated terracotta tile (mine is 40 x 40 cm). Pre-heat oven to 240 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes.
- Divide dough in 2. On a well floured surface, roll out one piece at a time ion circular shapes, adding more flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a wooden board that is covered with a sheet of baking paper (this is key, because it will enable you to slide the dough with paper into the oven directly onto the hot tile, which acts as a pizza oven). Cover the rolled out dough with half of the garlic and olive oil mixture, spread out evenly to cover the whole surface, then sprinkle lightly with oregano.
- Slide the rolled out dough from the wooden board onto the heated tile in the oven. Bake for about 5-7 minutes or untill golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Ingredients for caprese salad:
- 1 large ripe organic tomato, sliced
- 250 g ripe organic cherry tomatoes, sliced (or use any other smaller tomatoes that are in season)
- 150 g fresh mozzarella (fior di latte), teared into chunky shreds
- handful of fresh basil leaves
- salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
- extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Arrange the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves on the garlic pita. Season with salt and pepper, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with balsamic vinegar to dip in.