No need to heat up the oven for this medley of Southwestern flavors. The mozzarella cheese provides smokiness to spare, so you needn't include the bacon. Served in a glass bowl for a party buffet, this makes a colorful accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken. To convert it to an appetizer, coarsely chop the tomatoes and serve with tortilla chips.
Servings: 10 - 12
- For the Tomato-Chili Oil
- 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
- For the Black Bean Salad
- 1 dried ancho chili pepper
- 4 ounces smoked bacon (about 4 slices) or 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can (15 to 16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
- 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions, white and tender green parts
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
- 1 pound (16 ounces) plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 4 cups shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons tomato-chili oil, plus more for serving
- 2 limes, cut into small wedges, for garnish
For the Tomato-Chili Oil: In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the ingredients. Cook until bubbles just begin to break the surface, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a jar or bottle, pressing down on the solids. Set oil aside and discard the solids.
For the Black Bean Salad: Soak the ancho chili pepper in very warm water for about 25 minutes or until softened. Drain and cut into 1/8-inch slivers. Set aside.
If using the bacon, cook it in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Let cool, crumble and set it aside. Reheat the bacon fat in the skillet over medium heat. If using the canola oil instead, heat it in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the ancho chili pepper slivers, garlic and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes or until softened. Add the cumin and salt and pepper to taste and cook for 30 seconds. Add the black beans and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro and the reserved crumbled bacon, if desired. Mix well and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the corn, the remaining lime juice, cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble: Place 1 cup of the black bean salad in a clear serving bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the scallions over the beans, then half of the diced red bell pepper, 1 cup of the corn-cilantro mixture, half of the tomatoes and half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients. Drizzle the Tomato-Chili Oil on top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day. Serve at room temperature, accompanied by the lime wedges and additional Tomato-Chili Oil.
Adapted from "Tomatoes & Mozzarella," by Hallie Harron and Shelley Sikora (Harvard Common Press, 2006, $19.95).
Tested by Marcia Kramer.
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