Friday, 16 March 2012

Spring-Loaded Salad!

Insalata di Fagioli, Mozzarella, Pepe e Cumquat con Bastoncini di Tortilla
String Bean, Mozzarella, Pepper and Cumquat Salad with Tortilla Sticks

Yes indeed my friends- this here salad is indeed loaded with all the freshness and goodness of Spring! Rich but mild goat-milk Mozzarella, tangy cumquat's, yummy green beans and aromatic basil- it has been a long time coming, but finally Springtime is knocking on our door!

When it comes to salads, it is never a case of "rocket science", it is always just a case of a good combination of ingredients that do all the work for you. And that really is the truth- because an overpowering dressing is also not going to make for a good meal- you want to bring out and compliment the flavors of your ingredients.

So tag along and I will fill you in on how I made this... and also the yummy tortilla strips! Enjoy!

There is a tiny bit of prep-work for this, but it can all be pulled together in 30 minutes at the most. I started off by preparing the tortilla strips. I halved the tortillas and then cut them into strips of about 1" width. I covered one lot in some finely grated smoked Scamorza- it was my very last piece! I only put on a little- if you have too much cheese on there it will just melt and make the tortilla saggy- so less is more! They will take about 10 minutes in a preheated oven to become nice and crispy and brown. The second lot were baked plain and then lightly brushed with a mix of honey and balsamic and sprinkled with fresh thyme. Oh yes indeed- those are 2 great flavored crispy nibbles to go with that fresh salad! Very nice indeed!

For the salad- open your mozzarella and lay it in a colander or sieve to drip dry- it can sit there for the 5 minutes you need to steam the beans. Trim the ends off the beans, sprinkle with salt and pop them into a saucepan with a steam rack if you have one, for 5 minutes, along with a clove of garlic. If you don't have one, you can of course boil them- the only difference being that you do lose some of the flavor into the water when you boil vegetables, whereby when you steam them, it all remains in the vegetables themselves. After 5 minutes, rinse under a cold tap and you're done. No need for ice or any of that silliness! You just want to stop the cooking process and cool them off.

As far as the mozzarella is concerned, I love the texture of it when it is torn rather than sliced- to me it is much nicer, but of course it is a matter of taste. So, either slice or tear the mozzarella and layer it with sliced peppers, cumquat's and spring onions, along with some finely chopped chives and a few leaves of basil. I did without vinegar for my dressing, as the peel of the cumquat's is sour enough and the juice also has a similar effect. Mozzarella and oranges of any kind, of course including cumquat's, both go very well with olive oil- so that is what I used to dress this salad. I seasoned it with a little of my seasoned salt with orange zest, Sichuan pepper and lavender and sprinkled it lightly with green Tabasco. The whole thing works, because you taste each individual flavor and do not  overpower them with an even richer dressing.

Along with the crispy sticks, this makes for a wonderfully meal to set the mood for things to come this Springtime and Summer... Here comes the sun!

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