Fresh Take: Rioja's Mango Caprese

May 25 2012, 1:13 PM

Memorial Day marks the summer season but until sun-ripened tomatoes are readily available, I'll visit Rioja when I'm craving a Caprese salad. Chef Jennifer Jasinski (a two-time semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest award) takes liberties with the traditional combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. In fact, she borrows from two of my favorite Italian starters: the Caprese and the classic salty-sweet pairing of prosciutto and melon—and then she makes them her own.

The result is a fan of thinly sliced mango topped with heavenly mozzarella di bufala, balsamic-marinated and grilled endive, a touch of meaty guanciale (cured pork jowl), and a drizzle of basil-mango coulis. I like how the fruit's sweetness plays off the endive's bitterness to balance the guanciale's richness. And the mozzarella is deliciously light, creamy, and salty. Eaten mid-day with a couple of those legendary rosemary-chive biscuits, it's a meal in itself.

1431 Larimer St., 303-820-2282

—Image courtesy of Rachel Nobrega