During the summer months, when the days are longer and warmer, I find myself craving lighter food (my mother would be proud of how many vegetables I eat, willingly, when temperatures spike).  When it’s hot, you feel sluggish anyway, and a big salad with crisp veggies sound much more appetizing than a piping hot bowl of soup or something.

Today was certainly no exception–as of this afternoon, the temperature hit a balmy 95 degrees in Washington, D.C.  Now, in my homeland of Texas, this is common for the summer months.  In Texas, however, I tend to get around more in cars and usually hop from one air-conditioned location to another.  Getting around in D.C., on the other hand, is a different story.  I usually take the Metro to work, and if I need to grab lunch outside of the office or run errands after work, I have to brave the elements and walk everywhere (or run, as I did recently when a lightning storm hit and I didn’t have an umbrella).

At work today, thankfully in my air conditioned office, I read a great post on D.C. food trucks by my friend Lisa (a.k.a. http://www.thenovicenosher.com) and was inspired to think about my favorite summertime meal.  (Food trucks, on a side note, are all the rage now in D.C., for good reason–gourmet cuisine, from cheesy macaroni and cheese to Chicago style pizza to lobster rolls, all available at your fingertips around the city).

Although not available through D.C. food trucks, my favorite summertime meal, by far, is a big plate of insalata caprese.  I first experienced the culinary delight of insalata caprese while living in Rome, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Insalata caprese translates as “salad in the style of Capri.”  It’s apparently unknown if the salad actually originated from the island of Capri (a gorgeous island off of the Amalfi Coast, a common honeymoon destination for Italians and a favorite destination of mine while living in Italy), but it did become popular after being served there to King Farouk of Egypt during the 1950’s.

Making insalata caprese is super easy, and it’s great as an appetizer or a light meal.  All you really need are the basic ingredients:

–Fresh tomatoes (unfortunately, in the U.S. we don’t have great tomatoes like they do in Italy, but I find that the vine-ripened tomatoes they sell at grocery stores are better than the regular ones)

–Basil leaves

–Mozzarella cheese (in Italy they use buffala mozzarella, which is the best kind to use but is pretty expensive here in the States–it’s worth the splurge though, in my humble opinion)

–Extra virgin olive oil

–Balsamic Vinegar

–Salt to taste

When I want to throw together an insalata caprese, like I did recently for myself and my fiance, I simply place tomato slices on a plate, put a slice of buffala mozzarella on each tomato slice, and put a basil leaf on top of each mozzarella slice.  Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt, and you’re done.  Some people also put pesto on their insalata caprese, which is also delicious.

So, if you’re looking for a flavorful, colorful dish that’s easy to make and is perfect for beating the summer heat, thank the gastronomic genius of the Italians and make yourself a big plate of insalata caprese.  And buon appetito.