Bacon Caprese Cups
Father’s Day is coming up and in honor of all the bacon loving dads out there I wanted to create a menu that includes bacon and/or beer in every dish. I’m starting out with these Bacon Caprese Cups and we’ll see where it goes from there! Caprese Salad is so delicious and simple. It celebrates the beauty of a perfectly ripe, sun-kissed tomato with just a few simple ingredients like creamy mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, olive oil and salt. While this version might make a purist cringe with the addition of bacon (agh!) – I really think there are few people out there who might be able to overlook it and give it a try because the bacon really gives the salad a nice texture and that bit of salt that makes our mouth water. Plus – it’s just a fun twist. You can go back to the classic anytime!
One of the best things about a Caprese Salad – besides being so darn delicious – is how quick and easy it is to pull together. And the same holds true for these cute little ‘cups’. The balsamic reduction is optional and you can always use a store bought version if you want to skip that step at home. But if you do decide to make it know that you can make it ahead and store it in an airtight container or squeeze bottle. Be careful not to reduce too long or you get a really, thick syrup (been there). And remove from the heat while it’s cooling. Stored in the fridge it will thicken so I just put it out on the counter for 30 minutes or so before I use it. And it’s great on all kinds of dishes as a finishing touch. It’s sweet and tangy. Drizzle on a burger or grilled onions or a nice stuffed portabella mushroom! Okay back to the main dish – Bacon Caprese Cups.
Bacon and tomatoes are the key here so use good quality. I highly recommend a thick cut bacon and heirloom tomatoes. You can use any variety of Heirloom tomatoes that you like but try to find a medium size one so that the cheese and basil and bacon mixture fills it to the top. These Bacon Caprese Cups come together in minutes. In stead of slicing the tomatoes and arranging on the platter we are stuffing them and they become the ‘cups’. The bacon can be cooked ahead and then just rewarmed. But once you stuff them you should plan on serving them right away. They hold up well on a buffet or sitting out at room temperature for an hour but you don’t want to refrigerate them once stuffed because it will make the tomato mushy and the bacon soggy and…well….there’s nothing worse than that.
Here’s a few pics of how I put it together but feel free to add your own twists. I did add a pinch of red pepper flakes to mine. Afterwards I was thinking a little lemon zest might have been good, too. This recipe is for 4 cups and each one would make a good sized salad portion or side dish to a main dish. If making for a larger group it’s easy to double or triple the recipe.
Pro Tip: Cut a tiny slice of the bottom of the tomato with a very sharp knife to make it sit flat on the serving dish.
- Balsamic Reduction
- 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4 medium tomatoes –heirloom variety or regular vine ripened
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella Ciliegine (small ovals)
- 8 Basil leaves, divided
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin Olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon Salt
- Pinch of black Pepper
- Pinch of red pepper flakes *optional
- Make the balsamic reduction. Bring the balsamic and sugar to a boil in a non-reactive small saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until reduced by 1/2. Remove from heat and cool; will thicken. Can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container.
- Preheat oven to 450 and line a sheet pan with foil. Cook bacon for 12-14 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels
- Cut the top ½ inch off the tomatoes, score around the center core of the tomato with a sharp paring knife and scoop out the insides. Drain upside down on paper towels.
- Quarter the mozzy and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil.
- Roll 4 of the basil leaves, stacked together, into a roll like a cigar. Chop into pieces (chiffonade). Add to the bowl with the cheese and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Roughly chop or crumble 2 of the cooked bacon slices into the bowl with the cheese and basil. Add a little bit of salt and pepper and fold gently with a spatula to combine.
- Divide the mixture evenly into each of the tomatoes and then tuck ½ piece of bacon into the side of each tomato as a final garnish. Arrange on the platter with the remaining 4 pieces of basil underneath the tomatoes and drizzle the platter with balsamic reduction.