When the weather gets hot and I’m hungry but don’t feel like actually cooking, I enjoy a nice cool plate of fat, juicy hornworms, and tomato Caprese. Having a quick meal like this is good for multiple reasons.
- It’s easy.
- Hornworms are tomato-eating bastards and the more they eat, the less I get (not cool)
- It’s easy.
Okay, so bottom line is, it’s an easy dish to make.
Of course, getting your hands (or hooves, depending) on hornworms isn’t always possible, and I’ve heard from a number of you who insist on alternatives to actual insects (sheesh…) so, without further ado, a non-hornworm hornworm Caprese salad.
For this recipe you will need:
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes
- 1/4 cup soft mozzarella
- 2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup basil + 12 leaves
- 1/4 cup cold water
- Balsamic vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- Caterpillar molds**
**(The first thing you need to do is make your caterpillar molds. I won’t walk you through the entire process here…I already have a full 2 part tutorial up here and here that will get you where you need to be. You can also skip the whole molding process if you wish and simply go online and order a pre-made mold here.)
Start by blooming your gelatin in your cold water for 10 minutes.
In a food processor, puree one of your tomatoes and your 1/4 cup basil until you’re left with a chunky liquid (don’t puree your reserved leaves, we’ll need those for garnish later.)
Strain your liquid, separating out all the seeds from your tomato and any bits from your basil that you were unable to liquefy.
Your basil/tomato water will be foamy but don’t worry, we’ll fix that.
Slowly add your bloomed gelatin to your basil/tomato water and mix well. Microwave for 15-second burst, stirring between each time until all your gelatin is completely dissolved.
Add 1 Tablespoon of the tomato and basil bits you strained out earlier. This will give your hornworms a bit of “body” and “texture” as well as color.
Transfer your puree to a squeeze bottle (if you have one. If not, it’s not a problem, just makes filling molds easier) and gently fill your molds until they’re full.
Pop them into the freezer for approximately 5-8 minutes or the fridge for 15. You want them cold and gelled but not so cold that they’re frozen. (Frozen caterpillars have a tendency to snap in half when they’re pulled from the molds.)
While your caterpillars are chilling, slice your remaining tomato into round slices.
Using a fork, mash up your mozzarella until it’s easy to spread. Add in just enough balsamic vinegar to give it a nice brown color and a tasty tang.
Scoop a good amount of balsamic mozzarella onto the top of each of your slices of tomato and top with a single basil leaf.
Your worms should be chilled and firm by now. Gently remove them from your molds and trim off any excess gelled puree. Place one caterpillar on top of the basil leaf you’ve already placed on your mozzarella topped tomato slice.
Drizzle the whole thing with a little more balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt.
Do this for the rest of your worms and tomatoes.
Arrange on a plate and serve to hungry guests as a refreshing appetizer or save for yourself for a light and cool salad treat.