insalata caprese ii salad

Why It's So Worth the Trouble

We've all seen recipes that call for gently tearing basil and adding the tender herb just before serving, but it's one of those instructions I've always ignored. What's the big deal if the basil gets a little bruised when it's sliced with a knife. (The sharper the knife, the better, if you insist on going that direction.) When chopped, the leaves turn dark, sometimes they even take on a black quality that's not very pretty.

It might seem like a time saver to chop fresh basil, but it only takes a few minutes to finish a salad or a top a pasta or make a stew truly memorable. Somehow, tearing it gave me a heightened sense of appreciation for all the effort behind the growing process. The planting, weeding, watering and general tending seems pretty straightforward, but my thumb's never been green. That's why I'm so blown away when friends and families share their harvest, and why I'm a firm believer in local farmers markets.

But back to that basil for a sec: It looked gorgeous, of course, but I swear the torn leaves had a much more pronounced basil flavor. It gave those juicy tomatoes a kick and grabbed hold of the extra virgin olive oil in a way that didn't create a slick. It was a spectacular way to celebrate the waning days of a long, hot summer. Of course, you can buy fresh basil year-round, but I'm so grateful to my brother for this edible lesson in the virtues of taking a little extra time during dinner prep. The delicious memory of that salad will stick with me until the next growing season, when I might even be inspired to planting some basil of my own.

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