Make a simple summer appetizer

Susan Selasky
Detroit Free Press

It’s summertime, and caprese salad dishes are ever-present on restaurant menus and at outdoor parties.

They’re a great choice for this time of year because they embrace fresh summer tomatoes and herbs.

Caprese insalata (salad from Capri) is traditionally made of mozzarella, basil and sliced tomatoes. The ingredients are often drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper. But there are other tasty versions, including those accented with balsamic glaze or topped with pesto.

There are many ways to serve caprese, though it’s not typically the type of salad that is tossed. There’s the standard style with the ingredients arranged in overlapping layers on a serving dish. Or you can layer in individual stacks.

Caprese salad skewers are popular as an appetizer. They are great because you can make a bunch in advance.

Today’s super easy twist features grilled tomatoes on a crusty baguette. It’s ideal if you’re in need of a quick appetizer or side dish.

The original recipe was paired with grilled chicken as an option. But you can serve these with any main dish or alone as passed appetizers.

You can drizzle it with olive oil, balsamic glaze and even pesto. Or try all three. And since basil is cropping up in many gardens, you can use some extra leaves as a garnish.

When selecting the fresh mozzarella, you can buy a log and slice it yourself. Some stores carry pre-sliced logs. You can also buy a container of small orbs, which typically come in cherry size or pearl size. For this recipe, use the cherry size. The cherry size is also sold marinated, which will work in this recipe.

Making crostini, little toasts, is one of the easiest parts of this recipe. For easier slicing, put the baguette in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Always use a serrated knife so you get even slices.

You can grill the bread slices a day or two in advance. Store them in a plastic bag and give them a quick warm-up on the grill. With the tomatoes, it’s best to grill them in the foil packet not too far from serving time. While tomatoes will get juicier as they sit, you run the risk of them become mushy.

If you’re drizzling on balsamic glaze or pesto, you can make your own or buy it. Most grocery stores now have good quality brands of both.

I highly recommend having balsamic glaze as a standard pantry ingredient. The glaze is boiled down balsamic vinegar that has an intense, sweet flavor. A small drizzling of the glaze goes a long way and with a variety of dishes — especially grilled foods.

Caprese Crostini

Serves: 6

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

2 pints grape tomatoes, washed

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing on the bread

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 baguette (16 ounces)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (marinated if desired)

6 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella

1/2 bunch freshly chopped basil leaves

Balsamic glaze, optional

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Place the tomatoes on a large piece of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat. Bring up the edges of the foil, making a packet. Grill about 15-18 minutes or until the tomatoes burst. Remove from the grill, put tomatoes and any juices into a bowl and set aside. Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, slice the baguette into about 12-14 slices on the diagonal. Brush with oil and grill about 4-5 minutes or until browned. Remove from the grill.

If grilling chicken, place it on the grill for about 7 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness, until completely cooked through.

Top each bread slice with sliced mozzarella, a spoonful of tomatoes, a grind of freshly ground black pepper and chopped basil.

Serve as an appetizer while the chicken is grilling or serve with the chicken.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

Nutritional analysis (includes one chicken breast and two crostini): 507 calories (28 percent from fat), 16 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 47 g carbohydrates, 42 g protein, 864 mg sodium, 98 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber.