Here’s a quick dish about one of my favorite quick dishes. In Michigan the year is at that sweet spot when the weather and the heirloom tomato season makes every shopping day a mandatory caprese salad for lunch day. With fresh, tasty and local tomatoes and mozzarella purchased less than an hour before, the dish requires minimal embellishment and so mere minutes after arriving home with the grocery I could be sitting down to reward myself with a leisurely, cool Mediterranean meal – sometimes followed by a Mediterranean siesta especially if I had some wine with my lunch. This past week, Oanh interrupted me as I went to harvest some basil for my salad. She had a hunch that rau om would work well in caprese salad and suggested I try that instead. She was right.
Caprese salad was real easy to make – I sliced up roughly equal parts fresh mozzarella and fresh tomatoes – the fresher the better, then added extra virgin olive oil, and basil. Our mozzarella came well salted, and the tomatoes were so flavorful, there was never any desire to embellish the salad further – but salt, pepper, vinaigrette, and sun-dried tomatoes are common additions found in other recipes. We also liked having some tasty crusty bread handy to sop up the delicious tomato juice / olive oil mixture.
Into this minimalist meal we added rau om. That rau om went well with tomatoes was not a surprise in retrospect – they’ve been paired together before in canh chua / Vietnamese sour soup and Oanh’s tomato and pineapple dessert. But it was surprising to see how well rau om went with fresh mozzarella. Maybe Marco Polo ought to have brought rau om back to Italy to grow in the paddies alongside the imported rice and water buffaloes.
The pictures included in this post came from my second caprese salad with rau om. I actually preferred the first salad, made with a mix of basil and rau om. The floral roundness of rau om contrasted very well with the sharp spiciness of basil. Without basil, the salad was too mellow.
That’s our of our homegrown rau om above. They were rooted (placed in water until roots came out) from herbs bought at the market and grown under an improvised hot house (a plastic bag). That last part came from a tip by Andrea at Viet World Kitchen and was a much needed but missing detail that doomed our previous efforts to grow rau om. Otherwise, rau om was ridiculously easy to propagate from cuttings, and now we have our own fresh supply!