So. Much. Rain. As I write this, we’re in hour who knows how many of steady, driving rain and wave after wave of thunderstorms. The garden is waterlogged. The sky is leaden. It’s weird weather, I tell ya, with a record number of 60+ degree days in February and tornadoes in the area on March 1. Will summer—and its bounty of perfect, ripe garden tomatoes—even happen this year?
To tide us over, here’s a wintertime version of the traditional Italian caprese salad. You know the one: with sliced, perfectly ripe off the vine tomatoes and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese. If you’ve ever made the mistake of ordering this salad in January in an Italian restaurant, it’s a mistake you’ve made just that once. Anything less than tomato perfection, and this salad, frankly, sucks.
This salad, this winter caprese recipe, makes two smart swaps, trading the tomato for roasted sliced beets and the fresh basil for Swiss chard pesto. Both equally tasty and nice on the plate as their summer counterparts. It’s inspired by another winter caprese salad I had recently from Wheat Penny, the delightful pizza joint in Dayton; it included roasted broccolini instead of beets, and a winter squash puree instead of the pesto.
All of which to say: it’s perfectly acceptable—fun, even—to hack variations on totally seasonal dishes at other times of the year. See what you can come up with to go alongside that fresh mozzarella!
WINTER CAPRESE SALAD WITH BEETS AND CHARD PESTO RECIPE
For the pesto:
5 large leaves Swiss chard, center stems removed
3 tablespoons sliced toasted almonds
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup mild olive oil
Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add chard and cook just until wilted, about 30 seconds. Drain, cool and squeeze as much water out of the chard as you can. Transfer to a food processor; add almonds and garlic and pulse to chop. Add olive oil and puree until very smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the salad:
4 large beets, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Bit of olive oil
Herb-seasoned salt (I like Peg's Salt)
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Freshly cracked pepper
Preheat oven to 400°; line a small baking sheet with foil. On the baking sheet, arrange the beet slices; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with herb salt. Roast for 20–25 minutes, turning once, until beets are tender but not falling apart. Smear a generous spoonful of pesto on each serving plate, then arrange beets and mozzarella slices on top. Scatter cracked pepper over each serving.