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4th of July: Caprese Salad with Balsalmic Reduction

July 5, 2012

Growing up in the nation’s capital, one might think that I have high standards for the 4th of July. With a stellar fireworks display downtown, and a mirror display down the river in Old Town Alexandria, the 4th of July can be a big deal in the DC area. I can not emphasize enough that I love DC. It really is a wonderful place to grow up, be an immature young adult, and raise your own children. However, patriotism has always been a funky thing for me, as I always think of Fredrick Douglass’ “What is to the slave is the 4th of July” which emphasizes that since the tradition has been made, our freedoms have been in conflict. Honestly, I have only gone to the National Firework display once, and that was during college when adventures were the call of the day. With my wisdom teeth pulled two days before, and my discovery that I am allergic to codeine, I ventured into hours of riding the metro, the consistently record breaking heat that is the swamp of DC, and dealing with crowds of tourists. Clearly, sometimes tradition isn’t worth it.

AAM and I made new traditions when we started dating ten years ago. We completely rejected our location, and just enjoyed the 4th together. Since most of our friends were not from DC (we are unusual in that both of us are from the city), many went home for the holiday, and we had to find new ways to celebrate.  No huge firework displays or parades, we usually have a beer and eat good food.  One tradition that has happened for years, AAM wakes up singing probably the funniest version of “Happy Birthday America” one could imagine.  He is most definitely my opposite, patriotism oozing from him even in the most cynical of moments. Sometimes, we do sparklers, but probably the most consistent tradition is me cooking too much. This year was no different. I cooked my usual: addictive baked beans and vegetable macaroni salad. I also tackled new recipes, some to come. 

We had our neighbors, who I have known since we were teenagers, friends, and their kids over. Running around the yard, splashing water, and finding shade, the twins, MK and TK, discovered the 4th with Serafina. The highlight of the day was watching the three of them react to fireworks. To say the least, when they are teenagers the girls might give us a few heart attacks, as they ran towards the fireworks. So TK, who showed an appropriate level of nervousness about the fireworks, will be put in charge.

Establishing new traditions with Serafina, cheap fireworks and good food

Although a Caprese salad is not revolutionary, I did a balsamic reduction this time, which was something that made me nervous for no good reason. The one suggestion I would give is to not prepare this too far in advance. I did. The reduction turned hard, and the dish soggy. Sometimes prep can’t be helped. When you have a toddler, you try to cram miracles into naptime. It didn’t ruin the dish, and my clue was that it was the first to disappear.  We buy our mozzarella from Blue Ridge Dairy, which sells cheese to our local Farmers Market, our week long Local Market, and Whole Foods. Also, the balsamic can harden in the pan, so be sure to soak it when you are done, it will save you from scrubbing.

Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

  • 12 oz of fresh mozzarella, large
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 15 leaves of basil
  • 2 cups of balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

1. In a small saucepan, simmer the balsamic vinegar over medium. Stir occasionally. When the vinegar starts to thicken and get sugary, turn it down.

2. Meanwhile, slice your tomatoes and mozzerella. Salt the tomatoes.

3. On a plate, stack tomatoes, then mozzerella, and basil.

4. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the salad, and add freshly ground pepper.

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