The Caprese salad is well known. At the height of summer tomato season, it can’t be beat. But what do you do when tomatoes aren’t the best or you want an alternative? Think “(Not a) Caprese 2.0,” with zucchini and mint!
The traditional Caprese uses fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil. When you break it down, a Caprese is just a vegetable, a cheese, and an herb (tomatoes are technically fruit). Here I’ve used zucchini instead of tomato, which can be found nearly year-round (zucchini is also technically a fruit, by the way!); fresh mozzarella plus a hard cheese for extra flavor; and mint instead of basil. In other words, this Alternative Caprese is also just a vegetable, a cheese, and an herb.
I often have this for lunch, and as the recipe states, it makes 2 generous lunch entrees. Otherwise, you can divide it into four and serve it as a side dish as shown in the photos.
The other way this deviates from a true Caprese is that I sauté the zucchini until it’s golden brown to develop its flavor. Raw zucchini is fairly flavorless. Until good “tomato tasting” tomatoes arrive in about two months, give this alternative a try.
(Not a) Caprese Salad 2.0 with Zucchini and Mint
- 3 medium-large zucchinis, diced 1/2 inch (1 cm) (about 4 cups)
- 8 ounces raw mozzarella (2 medium size balls), weight taken after water/whey removed, diced 1/2 inch (1 cm)
- 3 ounces (about 1/3 cup grated or finely diced) Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling on the final dish
- Dice the zucchini into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
- Bring a large sauté pan to medium-high heat (If the pan is too small, the zucchini will steam instead of brown. If needed, brown the zucchini in two batches.). Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the zucchini, salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Stirring occasionally, sauté the zucchini until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes. Once cooked, place the zucchini on paper towels to cool a bit and whisk away some of the oil (warm zucchini is fine, but if left hot it will melt the cheese, which you don’t want to happen)
- Drain the mozzarella balls from their water and whey and pat dry. Dice into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces and place in a large mixing bowl
- Grate or finely dice the Grana Padana or Parmesan cheese and add it to the mixing bowl along with the mozzarella
- Finely chop the mint and add it to the mixing bowl with the cheeses
- Add the warm (not hot) zucchini to the bowl and mix all ingredients. Drizzle a bit of fresh olive oil on the salad and add extra salt if needed