Caprese salad – that super-simple, utterly addictive Italian combination of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil is such a big part of the French summer food experience that it’s pretty much part of the cuisine at this point. And tomate-mozza (the bistro-chic term for caprese salad in French) is EVERYWHERE once the weather starts warming up—at home, in restaurants and at the supermarket even, where the cold cases are suddenly filled with every type of mozzarella imaginable, from cheap string-cheesy blocks to organic mozzarella di bufala. And why not? It’s pretty hard to beat the three-ingredient wonder appetizer (four, if you add olive oil) when the tomatoes are sweet and sun-ripened, the mozzarella is creamy and fresh, and the basil is garden grown, tender and sweet.

Even though a classic caprese really needs no adornment, it’s hard not to want to play around with it a bit. This can be good—a light drizzle of aged balsamic, say—and this can be bad —like an odd, somewhat unappetizing ‘revisited’ tomate-mozza (video here) that calls for stuffing the salad inside the mozzarella ball.

These Caprese Polenta Stacks fall firmly in the ‘good’ category. Not because they’re a genius recipe or anything (in fact you probably don’t need a recipe at all)…but because I can’t stop fixing them for supper. They’re so quick, easy, and satisfying—plus the polenta makes them hearty enough for a main dish.

Caprese Polenta Stacks

2 Tbs. olive oil
1-lb. (500 g.) cylinder prepared polenta, cut into 12 slices
2 4-oz. (125 g.) ball fresh mozzarella, drained
4 cocktail tomatoes
fresh basil leaves

HEAT the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the polenta slices, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes, or until browned and crispy. Flip, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes more until browned on the second side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet, and place in a 200˚F/90˚C oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining polenta slices.

While the polenta is cooking…

SLICE the mozzarella into 4 or 5 slices per ball. Slice the tomatoes, and sprinkle the slices with salt.

STACK the warm polenta slices on plates with mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves between each polenta slice, and finish with tomatoes and basil. Serve immediately. Makes 4 stacks