Winter is coming. It’s hard to believe it when it’s August, when the temperatures are in the 30s and the sun doesn’t set until 8:30 pm. But next month, autumn will arrive. And it won’t be long after that when the darkness and the cold return.
I’m not saying any of this to bum you out. I am saying it to alert you to the absolute urgency of consuming peak summer tomatoes right fucking now.
Tomatoes may be available in Sainsbury’s all year long, but those gassed, mealy, watery, flavorless specimens aren’t really tomatoes. You’ll only find real tomatoes in August and September. You’ll know them because they’ll be heavy with juice. They’ll smell, when you press your nose to them, of sun and gardens. And they’ll taste like the hottest day of the year, like picnics in high summer, like getting pissed in the sun and like everything that is good in the world.
There is no better way to honour perfect summer tomatoes than in a caprese salad (after all, the best thing to do with a perfect tomato is very little). The genius of caprese salad is its simplicity, and its ephemerality. It is a holy trinity, a union of tomatoes, cheese, and basil. It’s impossible to make a good caprese salad out of second-rate ingredients, which is why it is absolutely imperative you make it now. Right now. Why are you still reading this?
Actually, don’t go quite yet: I’m convinced that there is no better beer on earth to pair with a caprese salad than Spontanbasil, the basil-infused gueuze made by Lindemans and Mikkeller. If the taste of perfectly ripe tomatoes teleports you to days outdoors in high summer, this beer does the very same. It’s fresh, effervescent, and lightly, puckeringly tart. And its flavour, my god – it tastes like a handful of basil ripped straight from the earth, those big, fleshy leaves soaked with sunshine, still wafting their aroma, their tingle of anise. This beer is practically boozy basil juice, and I mean that as the highest possible compliment. It is caprese salad’s soulmate, this beer. I’d advise you to get one bottle to go with the salad, and then another for dessert (strawberry sorbet beer float, anyone?). There’s no better way to celebrate summer – while you still have the chance.
3-4 large heirloom tomatoes
250g cherry tomatoes (preferably heirloom)
1 very fresh lobe of burrata (you could use mozzarella di bufala – but why would you do that when you can use burrata?)
1 bunch fresh basil
High-quality olive oil (preferably basil-infused)
Flaked sea salt
First, slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Put these in a bowl and season with sea salt. Glug over a good amount of your basil-infused olive oil (you can use regular extra virgin, of course, but for the true basil fiend, there is no comparison). Allow your cherry toms to hang out in their olive oil paddling pool for 5-10 minutes.
Slice the large heirloom tomatoes thinly and arrange the slices prettily on two plates. Season well with sea salt and black pepper, and pour over a generous amount of olive oil. Top the tomato slices with half of the cherry tomatoes.
Now, turn your hands to that excellently gloopy burrata. Like a burrata monster, rip your lobe into oozy morsels, and arrange these over the salad. Top with the rest of the cherry tomatoes and season with a bit more sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and another good drizzle of olive oil.
Allow this vibrant mix to sit for half an hour at room temperature, so all that cheesy gloop, olive oil and tomato juices can mingle together. Top with basil leaves, admire your handiwork, and then enjoy. Pro-tip: make sure you have a hearty, crusty hunk of bread nearby which you can use to sop up said juices at the end.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and all-around lover of tasty things. When she's not cracking open a cold one, she's probably cooking up roasted lamb with hummus. Or chicken laksa. Or pumpkin bread. You can follow her at @clairembullen. And why not get your hands on a bottle of Lindemans Mikkeller Spontanbasil via our online shop?