Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Water Buffalo Mozzarella & Beet Salad

Our trip to Quality Cheese was mainly because I wanted to get some mozzarella made with water buffalo milk, which is the traditional milk used for mozzarella in Italy. If it's made with cow's milk it should actually be called fior di latte. There are only two places making water buffalo cheese in all of Canada. (The other is in British Columbia.) The Ontario maker is Quality Cheese, and there are only two farms in Ontario who can supply them with water buffalo milk. It all goes to the mozzarella.

The cheese is not inexpensive, but it's a lot less than water buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy (the air freight alone must add a terrifying amount to the final price) and it also has quite the head start in the freshness department given the much shorter trip to market - and freshness is important in mozzarella as the texture changes considerably as it ages. Ideally, it should be eaten within three days of being made.

I haven't had the Italian cheese, so I can't compare the two, but we really enjoyed this cheese. It had a sweet, mild, creamy - milky flavour but with a bit of a tang. It isn't terribly firm, just enough to give a little resistance as you bite into it; almost a little squeaky although much softer than cheese curds.

I would like to note that this cheese was actually given to me; I introduced myself and said I was interested in blogging about Quality Cheese, and asked it I could take some photos of the shop. Not only was I given permission, we were taken on a very thorough tour of the factory and given a very generous amount of cheese! I was quite amazed; I have never been greeted quite so enthusiastically before. I'm planning to post about the factory tour on Friday once I have had a chance to get all the photos sorted and written up. There's also a lot more cheese to write about.

The classic thing to do with fresh mozzarella is to make a simple salad with sliced fresh tomatoes and basil leaves. Since neither of those things are remotely in season at the moment, I replaced the tomatoes with beets and the basil with arugula. The flavours are stronger and more earthy, but they make an excellent foil for the milky, tangy, smoothness of the cheese. Some chopped walnuts add a little crunch. For the bed of greens, I used a few of the youngest and most tender leaves from the beets, as well as spinach and watercress but any good mixture of greens will do. If you use a milder blend, you may want to add just a bit of mustard to the salad dressing to supply a little bite - I have kept the dressing sweet and simple in the face of all the other strong flavours here.

2 to 3 servings
20 minutes prep time, not including cooking the beets

Water Buffalo Mozzarella and Beet Salad
Cook the Beets:
1 large yellow beet
1 large red beet

Either cover the beets with plenty of water and boil them until tender, about 45 minutes or wrap them in foil and roast them at 375°F until tender, again probably about 45 minutes. Let them cool, then peel them, and cut each one into 6 even slices.

Make the Dressing:

4 tablespoons verjus or mild white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or sunflower seed oil
freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste

Whisk or shake together.

Assemble the Salad:
2 to 3 cups mixed greens
1 cup chopped arugula or watercress
125 grams (1/4 pound) water buffalo mozzarella
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

Trim and tear up the greens. Wash them and dry them well. Arrange them on individual plates. Slice the mozzarella into as even slices as you can, and arrange the slices of mozzarella alternately with slices of the beets over each salad. Alternate the colours of the beets. Sprinkle the salads with the chopped walnuts and drizzle the dressing over them.

Last year at this time I made Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder.

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