During summer tomato season, there's nothing that celebrates those juicy fruits quite like a caprese salad. Here are a couple ingredients that will make that red, white and green Italian classic shine even more brightly.

kumato caprese edited
Kumato caprese salad. Photo by Leslie Kelly

The Inspiration

Recently, I had one of those life-affirming dining experiences at Cantinetta, a lovely Italian restaurant in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood. The setting sun made the outdoor patio feel a little like Tuscany, especially after the second glass of Barbaresco. When the colorful salad arrived, it was a revelation. Heirloom variety tomatoes tasted exactly like tomatoes should, and the cheese on top oozed creamy goodness. It came pretty close to the best tomato salad I've ever eaten, which was 15 years ago at Bouchon Bistro in Napa Valley. Those epic California tomatoes were served a little warmer than room temp, as if they'd been plucked from the vine moments before, absorbing the heat of the mid-day sun. I cannot fathom why some restaurants serve summer tomatoes stone cold. It's like pouring a treasured aged Cabernet pulled from the fridge.

Burrata Makes It Better

At Cantinetta, the cheese on top of that memorable caprese was actually burrata, which is buffalo milk mozzarella filled with cream. Super rich, yes, but not in a heavy, cloying way. Arrange the ball of cream-filled cheese in the middle of the serving plate and arrange your beautiful tomatoes around it. So pretty, and lots of fun to share, family-style.

Amplify the Tomato Flavor

Joining fresh basil -- hand-torn if you want to make it really special -- on top of that luscious cheese are slivers of olive-oil-marinated sun-dried tomatoes, adding an extra dimension of tomato intensity to the dish. These days, supermarkets stock these ingredients. But, in a pinch, here's a step-by-step guide to making burrata from Huffington Post.