Carmichael Dave: Cooking Isn’t Hard
Chicks dig food.
I’m not trying to sound like a caveman, but we all know guys dig food. We are dumb and like to scratch and eat. That’s about it.
But many of us discount the fact that even the appearance of being skilled in the kitchen can provide immeasurable benefits elsewhere.
After the throttling my wife gave my man card here, what better way to come back from the dead than to share cooking tips.
Now I realize this is a salad, but relax. It also has cheese, which means you get impressive healthy points, plus CHEESE!
So here’s a little something I like to whip out every once in a while that makes it look like I have the culinary skills to pay the bills, but in reality isn’t hard at all.
I don’t know much about the originations of the Caprese Salad, but I’ll give you some background anyway, rather than cheat and go to Wikipedia.
Caprese Salad was invented by Giovanni Caprese in the north of Italy in 1634, in the kitchen of his basil farm. It was a rough year, and all Giovanni had in his sub-zero fridge was basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella cheese from his cow, Hermes. Giovanni’s wife was having a sewing party that evening, and although they had a freshly slaughtered lamb to put on his Traeger smoker grill, they were fretting over what to serve as a first course. Mutton stew wasn’t going to cut it.
So with a little ingenuity and the threat of his wife putting leeches in his bed, Giovanni got to work and invented a classic.
Again, this appears difficult to make, but really isn’t. It actually combines knives and construction, which all dumb guys like us absolutely love.
Start with a nice clean cutting board, a serrated knife, a cheese cutter (if you don’t have one, just use a big knife and be careful), and plates for each of your eaters.
N0te- Invest in some decent plates. They really make a difference. Michaelangelo didn’t paint on a piece of cardboard. Presentation actually makes food taste better.
Another note- If you are a cook, or also do Caprese Salads, relax. This is the way I DO IT. So don’t get on me for technique or whatever. Write your own stupid Salad Blog. Here goes.
One bunch fresh basil
Three heirloom tomatoes (use different colors. If you can’t find heirlooms, which you should at most grocery stores, use different colored regular tomatoes. Don’t be lazy and just use red)
Mozzarella cheese (use the fresh mushier kind if you can, if not you can use the big chunk, not the end of the world)
Salt and Pepper
Candied Walnuts (optional)
Start by stripping the basil of its leaves, trying to keep them intact. Many stores will sell basil still in a pot, but the fresh-in-plastic containered basil is acceptable.
Once the leaves are all off, slice your tomatoes in decently thick slices. Not crazy thin, but not gigantic. You want the tomato slices to stand up to gravity. More later.
Use your cheese slicer and slice your mozzarella cheese about half as thick as your tomatoes. If you don’t have a slicer (3 bucks at the store), use a non-cerrated knife. Please be careful and don’t Ronnie Lott your fingers.
Now build your salad. Use your largest tomato slice as the base, and lay it on the plate. We are stacking, folks. Follow it with a leaf of basil, then a slice of cheese, and more basil. Your stack should go like this:
Now listen. Don’t get all carried away and make the leaning tower of basil. I know its tempting to see how high you can get your stack because we are all 11 years old, but you won’t be getting Good Lovin if your girl is covered in salad. Best to stick to two of each item stacked on each other.
Obviously you want the stack to get slightly smaller from bottom to top, if possible.
Now that you have your stack hopefully stable, let’s move to the key: the dressing. Not only can you make a great dressing, you can tell your partner that you made your own dressing, which instantly makes it super better. Seriously.
Get a shaker, like a gym bottle or something. If you don’t have one, saran wrap over a beer glass is fine. For two eaters, take a half a cup of olive oil, and a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar, and pour it into the glass. Add two teaspoons of salt, and a teaspoon of pepper. This dressing is foolproof, so mess with the quantities to taste. Seriously. Add more pepper, salt, less pepper, you can even throw in a bit of garlic powder (bad breath warning).
Shake vigorously. You want the oil and vinegar to (big word you can use warning) emulsify. That means you don’t want two-tone dressing.
This next part is incredibly important. Remember what we said about appearance earlier? Or what the real cooks call plating.
Take whatever glass/cup/mug you shook the dressing up in and start drizzling it slowly over your salad stack. Don’t go to fast, let the dressing spill down and reach the bottom of the stack. You don’t want Salad Soup. Remember, you can always add more to the salad, not less. For an even cooler touch, if you have a ramekin or something nice to store the excess dressing in, your date can add their own extra dressing is needed. Basil is EXTREMELY strong, the balsamic vinegar helps to cut through that peppery taste.
Finally, if you want to go for the super kung-fu ninja tough, find some candied walnuts while you’re at the store. When you’re done stacking everything, throw a small handful of those walnuts on your cutting board, run a couple of rough chops through them, and sprinkle a small amount on top of your salad. Some might disagree with this, but I like the sweetness cutting through the tart of the vinegar and the pepper of the basil. Plus, more Super Gourmet points.
So there you go. Also fellas, don’t screw this up by serving this with a burger or tater tots. Be a man and grill an animal, preferably a nice chicken breast or yes, a steak.
Then make sure when your lady is swooning over your skills, to act slightly surprised and offended, and brush off the skill involved. Something like “What, you didn’t realize I knew my way around the kitchen” is always good.
Good luck and happy salad-ing.
Have an easy (yet looks hard) dish to share? Hey why not? Share it in the comments below, visit the KHTK FB page, or tweet me @carmichaeldave.