Even though we ourselves were contributing to the traffic and smog, I loved having our car for the trip last week to California. We drove out of the dry Santa Monica mountains on Sunday, dropping right into Malibu on Highway 1.
I was craving an egg breakfast after a late night of wedding celebration with sparkling wine and tequila and I kept my eyes alert for the perfect stop. The day was brilliant ocean and sky bright, the highway busy with weekend warrior bikers in full regalia, on “hogs” and road bikes both, with no lack of eye candy in all ways. An hour down the coast, about the time I decided that the granola and soy milk in our ice chest would be just fine, we passed a coffee shop with people waiting outside. “Let’s go there!” Found: cora’s coffee shoppe, at the Santa Monica beach. We grabbed seats at the counter—no line there—and besides, I love sitting at the bar and watching cooks juggle orders; there is so much to see and hear, especially since much of the banter was in Spanish. One glance at the menu and I knew my mojo was working. At the bottom, in bold, “all our food products are freshly made and organic whenever appropriate.” I ordered the burrata caprese omelette; burrata is artisan mozzarella cheese and caprese indicates mozzarella cheese with tomatoes and basil. While we sipped our Illy coffee, a bowl of heirloom tomatoes a foot from my face dwindled its contents to the prep cook in front of us who replenished more for display. He diced the tomatoes and with chiffonade of basil, toppled them over omelettes, and eventually one of them was mine. It came with olive bread toast and a 2-inch slice of baked potato, griddled, golden and drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. Where could we get some of those heirloom tomatoes today? Voila! The fellow diner to our right told us about the farmer’s market 3 blocks away. We fed the parking meter again and walked there with happy tummies. Life’s a beach.
Caprese Salad with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Basil
This is salad in the style of Capri Italy—simply dressed to show off the bounty of the season and region.
Red or yellow summer tomatoes, very ripe
Fresh mozzarella cheese balls
Fresh basil leaves
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Slice the cheese into 3/8-inch thick slices. Wash and trim the tomatoes and slice them also into 3/8-inch thick slices. You want as many slices of tomatoes as you have slices of cheese. Select and wash basil leaves—you will need as many leaves as you have slices of cheese.
Place a slice of tomato on a serving platter. Lay over it a slice of cheese, with about 1/2 inch of tomato showing. Place a basil leaf on the cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue around in a circle, arranging like a flower and seasoning each layer of ingredients with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and the vinegar, if using.
Makes as many servings as you wish, figure 2 or 3 slices per person of the cheese and tomato.