Hey there boys and girls! This is the Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell coming’ at ya with a late summer dog days edition of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. For those of you who have spent any quality time in the trenches with real Lunch Ladies, you know that public school cafeterias are not known for their hors d’oeuvres. But maybe they oughtta be. Perhaps it would bring a whole new level of sophistication and civility to the 30 minute lunch period. But first we need to call it something different. Just trying to say “hors d’oeuvres” correctly, much less trying to spell it, is a recipe for a Beavis and Butthead moment in any middle school cafeteria. So let’s just call it an “appetizer”.

Today we celebrate late summer with a time honored seasonal appetizer ~ Insalata Caprese, or in American layman’s terms ~ Mozzarella, Tomatoes and Basil.  While arguably, this dish can be made during any season, nothing beats freshly picked, vine ripened tomatoes and basil straight from the garden. Let’s face it, unless you’re an Italian dairy farmer, most of us don’t have the capacity to produce fresh mozzarella on site, so we’ll just have to do the best we can with what we can get. Not only is this recipe mindlessly simple, it’s also lots of fun because you get to use a really, really sharp knife.

And so, without any further adieu, I present Lunch Lady Cookbook Dog Days Insalata Caprese!



1 large freshly picked vine ripened beefsteak tomato

1 sprig freshly picked sweet Italian basil

Ball of fresh mozzarella

Colossal Spanish Olives (stuffed with feta cheese)


Slice mozzarella and arrange on platter

Sliced Mozzarella

Slice tomato and place on mozzarella slices

Sliced Tomato

Slice olives and place on top of mozzarella and tomato slices (are you sensing a pattern here?)


Garnish with shredded basil and VOILA! There you have it!



Ice cold Pinot Grigio (This will generally not be available in the cafeteria except as a black market item, but you may find it in some faculty lounges)


Musical Accompaniment:

The Lunch Laddy had Guy Clark’s “Cold Dog Soup” dialed in on Pandora, but adjust to suit your own tastes.

Serve “al fresco” on screened porch with other appetizers while shouting “Mangia! Mangia!”

This is your Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell wishing you all a dog days Bon Appetit and saying arrividirci from The Lunch Lady Cookbook!