Derek chose this recipe from the winter section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. I had a white bean and smoked cheese dish years ago at a friend’s place in Chicago. It was excellent. I was hoping that this dish would bring some of the same flavors together. The technique is pretty simple. You saute up carrots, celery, onions, garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes, then add a little water and let the vegetables steam briefly. Then the white beans, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and red wine vinegar are stirred in. Finally you toss the whole thing with arugula and chopped parsley.
I couldn’t find dry sun-dried tomatoes, so had to use oil packed (which are not my favorite). The recipe says it serves four and calls for 1/2 cup of olive oil plus 1/2 pound mozzarella! That just sounded crazy. I reduced the oil to 2 tablespoons and tried to drain the oil off the tomatoes, but the dish still came out rather oily. Since I quartered the oil I also halved the vinegar, which I think was a good idea because otherwise it would have been really acidic. Other than cutting the oil and vinegar, the only change I made to the recipe was omitting the rosemary. I just couldn’t find it, so I subbed in some fresh thyme.
When Derek first tasted the salad he said it tasted like it had ham in it. I told him that it was probably the smokiness from the smoked mozzarella. He said it was overpoweringly smoky and tasted like artificial ham. He said he liked smoke but this was gross. He also thought the sun dried tomatoes tasted strange. He had a small serving and didn’t want any more. It’s true that the smoked mozzarella wasn’t the highest quality–I bought the only smoked mozzarella I could find in Saarbruecken. It was from Italy, but clearly mass produced. I tasted it before putting it in the salad and thought it tasted okay, if a bit artificial, but it was quite rubbery. I agree with Derek about the sun-dried tomatoes–blech. I won’t buy the oil-packed ones any more.
Neither of us liked this dish too much, so I gave the leftovers to Scott. The next day I got a “ping” from Rowena saying “This morning I woke up to find a tupperware of some kind of bean and veggie dish. I tried it.. I assumed it was from you, but it tasted like bacon. Absolutely delicious! This is probably my favorite thing you’ve made, because it’s such comfort food. Scott and I are fighting over it.”
I think I might consider making this dish again, but only if I can find some really high quality smoked mozzarella.
The other half of winter Menu 5 in Fresh Food Fast is a “Provencal Garlic and Herb Broth.” I’ll post about it shortly.