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The American Chef in Italy

Beat the Heat of Summer with a Caprese Salad of Tomatoes and Peaches

Appetito's "American Chef in Tuscany" explains the oppressive heat of Tuscan summers and shares a recipe perfect for the conditions.

a photo of Summer Caprese salad of tomatoes and peaches.

Tomato and Peach Caprese Summer Salad. Photo by Meigan Arnone.

August in Tuscany. Let’s call it what it is: Hot! The tourist hubs of Florence and Siena are still packed with visitors busy “White Lotus-ing” the heck out of their vacations and loving every minute of it.  Meanwhile in our town of San Casciano Val di Pesa, things are moving at a much slower pace. The streets in the village that were bustling back in December are as quiet as those in a spaghetti western. Most shops are closed, and the windows have their own hand written sign stating “In Ferie”(on vacation), written in a way that you can almost see the joy in the handwriting as it means their long-awaited trip to the sea or cooler mountains is well under way. It’s “Ferragosto” which officially falls on August 15, but the the Italians are famous for stretching it through the entire month. If however, like me, you work in hospitality, “ferie” wont be coming for a little while longer.  

Air conditioning in Italy is still very much an extravagant luxury, so most days off consist of getting any errands done early in the morning and then closing all the windows and shutters to keep the hot air from cooking you alive in your home. When the sun finally does begin to set somewhere around 9pm, the doors and windows open back up, and I can take a walk through my little “Orto” (vegetable garden) and collect the ingredients for what may be my favorite reward after a long, Italian summer day: a simple Caprese salad of heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, Mozzarella di Bufala, and my addition of peaches to give it a little sweetness and interest.

The sound of the cicadas in the umbrella pines is the living soundtrack while I gently inspect the tomatoes for ripeness. The more colors and sizes that I can add to my basket the better as they all have their own flavor notes. When mixed with a grassy Tuscan olive oil and a Chianti red wine vinegar, this Caprese salad is entree enough, and I can leave the heat of the grill for another night.  

Gently tossed and served family style in the courtyard of our Tuscan country farmhouse and seated across from my wife, this simple salad and a cold glass of Vermentino or Rosé is the perfect way to remind myself that while it may be hot, you can’t get much better than this.  

Buon Ferragosto wherever you are this summer!

Summer Tomato and Peach Caprese Salad

Summer Tomato and Peach Caprese Salad

Recipe by Gaetano Arnone
5.0 from 1 vote
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

2

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pound 2 pieces of Bufala Mozzarella

  • 1/2 lb. 1/2 mixed heirloom tomatoes(the more colors and sizes the better)

  • one one bunch of fresh basil

  • one one peach

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • 4 tablespoons 4 Red Wine vinegar

  • Maldon or Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions

  • Cut the tomatoes in different sizes, some in quarters, some in half (if you have some small cherry or sungold tomatoes, leave those whole).
  • Add tomatoes to a mixing bowl with the fresh basil, tearing the lager leaves in half and leaving the smaller leaves whole.
  • Remove the pit from the peach, cut into 1-inch pieces, and add to the mixing bowl.
  • Season with salt and black pepper.
  • Add the olive oil and vinegar and gently toss.
  • Set aside to let the tomatoes and peaches steep in the juices.
  • Cut the mozzarella into 4 wedges each and place on a serving platter and lightly season with a pinch more salt and pepper.
  • With a slotted spoon gently dress the mozzarella with the tomato and peach mixture letting them fall where they will.
  • With a regular spoon, drizzle the oil and vinegar mixture over the salad and enjoy!

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