While we were in France, eating and drinking with gusto, Stephanie started to pine for the lighter fare she hoped I’d make when we returned home…to Fresno! Of course the home we returned to has no kitchen—only a refrigerator (because renovations), so for the last four weeks (and likely three still to come), I’ve been making a sort of insalata caprese alla California for dinner almost every other night.
It starts with a handful of arugula (enough to mostly fill a small disposable paper bowl while our things are still in storage). Sure baby kale could work, but arugula is smaller and more flavorful, in theory (somewhere along the way, I feel like its peppery bite has been breed out; note to self: grow my own). Then I halve enough heirloom cherry tomatoes so there’s nice coverage in the bed of greens. I cut 10 small balls of fresh mozzarella (aka ciliegine) into eighths and divide them between the two bowls. The tomatoes and mozzarella get a healthy grind of sea salt before I halve and distribute 10 pitted Kalamata olives. Each salad gets half of a sliced avocado, sprinkled with a little more salt, and a generous broadcast of pine nuts. I garnish with several coarsely chopped basil leaves, and then the whole affair is drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s basically all of our favorite things together in one bowl. And with so much in flux right now, it’s comforting to end our hot and occasionally hectic days with something so reliably satisfying.