Rainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic Glaze

Rainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic GlazeIt’s that time of the year where it’s not exactly summer or fall. I’m dying to wear boots and sweaters but I’m not looking forward to winter. The other day I was watching Quantico (Awesome show btw. Priyanka Chopra is absolutely stunning.), and there was a scene with slushy streets in NYC. My mind immediately curled itself up into a ball thinking, “No…… I’m not ready for another winter.”
heirloom tomatoesRainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic GlazeLuckily, we still have some summer produce to cling on to the last whisper of summer. I found some heirloom tomatoes at Trader Joe’s this past week and they were available in so many different hues that a rainbow was the first thing that came to my mind. I’m almost embarrassed to say that nearly every ingredient that I used in this recipe is from Trader Joe’s (even the paprika!), but imo a one-stop shop is always good news.Rainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic GlazeI love Caprese salad because it’s a solid balance of flavors. But more than half of the time, I’m disappointed when I order it in a restaurant. The ratio to tomato, cheese, basil and balsamic glaze is usually off. I suppose everyone has their own idea of what makes the perfect ratio and that’s why making it at home is the best option all around. (It’s usually cheaper too.)Rainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic Glaze Rainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic GlazeHeirloom tomatoes are super sweet and juicy so you want to use a very sharp knife to slice them neatly. Tip: when cutting the little tomatoes, cut them vertically (from the stem end) to get the prettiest shot of the seedy insides. I wanted to balance the sweetness with a hint of heat and it turned out well. I may be biased because I love hot sauce on almost anything and everything. Even if you forgo the spicy glaze and opt for plain balsamic vinegar, it’s still delicious since vegetables + cheese = always tasty.
Rainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic Glaze

Rainbow Caprese Salad with Spicy Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients:

2-3 lbs. heirloom tomatoes in various colors, shapes and sizes
16 oz. fresh mozzarella
1 bunch fresh basil
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
spicy balsamic glaze (recipe below)

Instructions:

  1. Wash and slice your tomatoes.
  2. Slice your mozzarella.
  3. Pick out the freshest leaves from your basil bunch. Save the tiny ones for garnish.
  4. Line the plate with basil leaves and top it with the mozzarella slices.
  5. Arrange the tomato slices from red to green, starting from the darkest red.
  6. Put some basil slices in between the tomatoes.
  7. Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt and drizzle the olive oil.
  8. Drizzle the balsamic glaze and top with the remaining basil leaves.

Spicy Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients:
½ c. plus ½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar (6% acidity)
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (if you just want a hint of spice, dial it back to ¼ even ⅛ tsp. if you’re sensitive)
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
freshly ground black pepper
¾ tbsp. sugar

Instructions:

  1. In a small pot, add ½ c. balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, paprika, sugar and as much black pepper as you want.
  2. Boil down the vinegar until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it so that it doesn’t burn.
  3. Add ½ tbsp. balsamic vinegar to up the acidity that you lost.
  4. Cool and use as desired.

Strawberry Pretzel Squares (AKA Strawberry Pretzel Salad)

Strawberry Pretzel Squares The English language is a funny thing. I never understood why some dishes that are sweet are called “salads”. It’s off-putting. It’s in the name. If you hear “strawberry pretzel salad”, what do you picture? I imagine a bowl of salad greens with strawberries and pretzels. No, thank you. Other examples of such salads are Jello salad, snickers salad, cookie salad and the list goes on and on.
Strawberry Pretzel Squares Strawberry Pretzel SaladBut after reading numerous blogs all featuring the same recipe and all with glowing reviews of how they grew up with this particular dish and how it’s everyone’s favorite at their family gathering, I broke down and had to try it. And after trying it myself, I can see why people would like it, especially with fresh strawberries. The pretzel crust is salty and crunchy, the cheesecake layer is smooth and creamy and the strawberry jello layer is fruity and refreshing. You pretty much hit every flavor profile. The best part? It’s super easy and the ingredient list is very short. Oh! Also, you only have to bake the pretzel crust for 10 minutes so your kitchen doesn’t get too hot. It’s a serious win-win-win situation.
Strawberry Pretzel SaladStrawberry Pretzel Squares (AKA Strawberry Pretzel Salad)

Ingredients:

2 c. finely crushed pretzels
1 cup and 3 tbsp. sugar, divided
¾ c. salted butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz. cool whip, defrosted
2 c. boiling water
1 – six ounce package strawberry jello
1 ½ c. cold water
4 c. hulled and sliced strawberries

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F and prep a 9×13 inch baking dish by spraying the inside with nonstick spray.
  2. In a bowl, stir the pretzel crumbs and 3 tablespoons of sugar until well mixed.
  3. Pour the melted butter over the pretzel mixture and stir until evenly coated.
  4. Press the pretzel crumb mixture into the bottom of the baking dish, pressing it down with a spatula to form an even layer.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown and cool completely.
  6. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Fold in the cool whip and spread evenly over the cooled pretzel crust. (Wipe off any cream cheese mix you get along the sides of the glass pan for a clean presentation later on.)
  7. Refrigerate crust while you prep the strawberry layer.
  8. In a large bowl, mix the strawberry jello mix with the boiling water. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in cold water and refrigerate for about 1½ hours. (At this point, the mixture should have the consistency of egg whites.)
  9. Stir in fresh strawberries into the jello mixture and carefully pour over the prepared cream cheese layer and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the strawberry layer is set. If you wiped the sides clean as suggested in step 6, the strawberry layer should set to a glass-like finish.

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.