Al Dente on the side: Regional Market Caprese salad

Saturday night brought dinner with our friends Mike and Allison and their brood of three boys. These nights are fun, not only because of the company, but because they are wide open when it comes to cooking and eating. The host knows that they can try something different and not get a sneer or look because there is a particular food that is off the table. It also helps that Mike and I are similarly constituted, which means things like curry are off limits.

Dinner at their house was fish tacos with grilled tilapia marinated in buttermilk, sour cream cole slaw and a mango-avocado salad as toppings. I volunteered a side and beer.

Saturday’s trip to the Central New York Regional Market had a combination of purposes. One was to get The Kid out of the house, as she was getting a little stir crazy at 8 a.m. (that happens when you wake up at 6:45). Another was to get the ingredients for what I was going to make. The final, and most important, was to figure out what I was going to make. I walked into the first stall with no real idea of what I wanted to put together. I thought a cold salad that would complement dinner would work, but I didn’t know about the sides that Mike was working on. The tomatoes (FINALLY!) were red, ripe and firm…absolutely beautiful. With that in mind, I went right to an old standby: caprese salad. The problem was that I wanted to get everything at the market and there was nowhere to come by fresh mozzarella.

That’s where Wake Robin Farm comes in. This local creamery started as a vegetable farm in 1999, but returned to its dairy farm roots about six years ago. Located in Jordan, Wake Robin makes milk, cheese and yogurt from a family of 12 Jersey cows. I like the Mona Lisa, but its Caerffilli was closer to mozzarella. Wake Robin’s website describes the cheese as:

Caerffili is salty, tangy, semi-soft cheese that originated in Wales. Our fresh version is rindless, and is aged less than a month. We love the humble roots of Caerffili, and we think this style of cheese particularly highlights our fresh, creamy milk. We use this cheese when we make pizza at home – it is a great cheese for melting.

Not exactly mozzarella, but the creamy texture and flavor were close enough. Add in a bunch of basil, some red onion, and we had a salad constructed of veggies purchased exclusively from local farmers.

Regional Market Caprese salad
By Jared Paventi

  • 3 lbs. plum tomatoes, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup basil, chopped fine
  • 8 oz. Wake Robin Caerffilli cheese, cubed
  • Two 1/2-inch slices red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt

Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk oil, vinegar and salt, to taste, together in a small bowl. Pour over the salad and toss. Refrigerate and serve cold.

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