It’s strawberry season here in North Carolina – one of my favorite times of the year. This week I’m going to feature some recipes from the N.C. Strawberry Project, a collaboration between N.C. State’s Plants for Human Health Institute and Johnson & Wales University including this one featuring a mint pesto drizzle.
Chef Mark Allison, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales, and some of his students have created several recipes such as Strawberry Feta Salad with Prosciutto Chips, Strawberry-Cucumber Salsa with Grilled Swordfish, and this Strawberries and Fresh Mozzarella with Mint Pesto Drizzle. This one sounded just strange enough to be really good, so I decided to give it a try. I had also received a sample of a natural sweetener called xylitol, so I made one batch with sugar and one with xylitol.
I generally substitute part-skim for whole milk mozzarella, but in this case, I thought the acidity of the balsamic vinegar needed the creaminess of the full-fat cheese. I also prefer whole milk cheese if I’m eating “raw” slices in a dish. The Saturated Fat level in this recipe is on the high side, so if you are concerned, reduce your serving size or have more strawberries and less cheese.
Xylitol vs. Sugar
How did the xylitol do? The Grillmaster thought the berries with xylitol tasted sweeter; I thought the berries with sugar tasted sweeter. I guess that means xylitol is very similar to sugar in terms of taste. I did find that the xylitol didn’t dissolve quite as well as the sugar did and left a bit of a gritty feel in my mouth. Next time, I think I’ll skip the sweetener altogether (the berries themselves are sweet enough for me) and mix the strawberries with the balsamic vinegar. This will hopefully prevent the balsamic blobbing I got when I attempted to “drizzle” the vinegar over the cheese.
This recipe is a bit high in calories for a dessert you eat after you’ve already consumed 400 calories or so at a meal. It did make a perfect lunch, however. If you want to serve it as dessert or a side, I’d recommend reducing the serving size.
Did I mention that the leftover pesto is great on whole wheat cheese tortellini?
Strawberries and Fresh Mozzarella with Mint Pesto Drizzle
- 1 pound strawberries sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon mint leaves
- ¼ cup almonds sliced
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- ½ clove garlic
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese ½-inch slices
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar ½ tsp per serving
In a bowl, combine strawberries and sugar. Cover and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the olive oil, mint leaves, sliced almonds, Parmesan cheese and garlic.
Divide the mozzarella and place the slices (overlapping) on each serving plate. Spoon ½ cup sugared strawberries around and on cheese.
Spoon ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mint pesto drizzle over cheese and strawberries on each plate. Garnish with mint leaves.
Watching fat? Eat more strawberries and less mozzarella. You could also substitute part-skim mozzarella, but it won't have the same mouthfeel.