This summer is shaping up to be my most active yet. As a result, I am usually hungry for something light, quick, and chilled. Today’s dinner was inspired by a side dish that I made a little while ago which consisted of peaches seared on the stovetop and topped with classic pesto. I loved the flavor combination and adding a ball of buffalo Mozzarella seemed like an obvious choice.
Mozzarella varies greatly in quality and availability. Some supermarkets sell their own, freshly made in store daily. There is no shortage of what I call “cooking mozzarella” already pre-sliced or even in a log. It’s not the traditional creamy, melt-in-your-mouth kind but it may be the only kind available some times. If that’s the kind you use – tear it in pieces instead of slicing. It will make so much difference! Both flavor and presentation wise. If you get your hands on Mozzarella di Buffala – get it. It’s made with Buffalo milk and if it’s sold in US – it’s imported from Italy. Unless you have buffalo roaming in your backyard and have mastered the art of making mozzarella by hand. In which case, please, let’s be friends. I’ll get the peaches and pesto!
My first time recognizing pesto as an independent ingredient was at brunch at a local restaurant which served their bread course with a little bit of pesto on a plate with olive oil. I remember tasting that burst of freshness and enjoying so much the occasional crunch from pine nuts.
Fast forward a few years and I was reading Massimo Bottura’s book “Bread is gold” – which I highly recommend, whether you cook often or not. In his book he describes various chefs from the top restaurants of the world using the random ingredients that they had that day to create meals for their guests. Many of them used all kinds of nuts, not just pine nuts, due to their price tag. Some even used bread crumbs. Bread crumbs! This made me feel so comfortable and excited about using what I had on hand. Mostly I would use walnuts, because they are my favorite snack. But if you have almonds or pecans – give it a go.
Peach, Mozzarella, and Pesto Salad
- Food Processor
- 2 Tb walnut pieces
- Pinch of salt
- 1 C basil leaves, packed in
- 1/4 C olive oil
- 1/2 C Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
- 2 peaches, ripe (they should feel soft, not rock-hard), quartered and each quarter cut in half
- 2 handfuls arugula or spring mix
- 1 8 oz ball of Mozzarella, preferably Buffalo or freshly made.
- freshly ground black pepper
- In a food process, pulse walnuts and salt, until crumbled.
- Add basil leaves and pulse until mixed and resembles a thick paste. If needed, scrape down the walls of the food processor with a silicone spatula.
- In a bowl, mix with olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Divide greens between plates, top with peaches.
- Tearing a piece at a time, divide the ball of mozzarella between plates.
- Sprinkle with salt, ensuring the mozzarella gets salted.
- Using a spoon, drizzle/scoop pesto over the plates.
- Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and enjoy!