Burrata 101: perfect pairings for summer
BY CAROLE KOTKIN CKOTKIN@GMAIL.COM
Summer is the season when salads take center stage, so why not give your salads a fresh twist by adding a ball of burrata (pronounced boor-RAH-tah) cheese? Burrata looks like a ball of mozzarella with a topknot, but there is a surprise inside. On the outside, the cheese has the stretchy texture of mozzarella, but its creamy, soft, buttery center slowly and irresistibly oozes out onto your plate when it’s cut open. It’s like eating heavy cream, only better. No wonder the cheese derives its name from “burro,” Italian for butter. This relatively modern specialty of Southern Italy was created as a way to utilize the stracciatella (“scraps” or “rags”) of mozzarella left over from production. Many cheese connoisseurs recognize burrata as one of the best fresh cheeses in the world. At first it could only be found in Puglia (the heel of the boot) where it is traditionally made with water buffalo milk, but burrata is now also produced domestically using cow’s milk. It can be found at cheese shops and fine grocery stores. It’s luxurious enough to be served plain, with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Some years ago in Puglia, I ate warm burrata with a spoon with sweet peaches, and salty prosciutto. Burrata should be served at room temperature rather than cold, otherwise the cream in the filling solidifies and loses that essential lusciousness. Its spectacular gushing center can be scooped up with slices of crusty bread. Its flavor, the essence of fresh milk, makes it perfect for pairing with flavorful ingredients like olives, tomatoes, prosciutto, and herbs. For best results, use a serrated knife to cut through the almost liquid interior. The highly perishable cheese should be used within 24 hours of purchase; after 48 hours it’s considered past its prime. Balls of burrata, surrounded by shaved fennel and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, make a superb lunch. Turn an ordinary roasted beet salad into a gourmet dish with the addition of burrata. That classic combination of burrata, peaches and cream is even better with grilled peaches and an herb dressing. Mango and burrata is another excellent pairing.
This recipe is adapted from a recipe from Chef Manuel Garcia of Zucca Authentic Italian Cuisine restaurant inside Hotel St. Michel in Coral Gables. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
The perfect pairing for this salad is a crisp white wine like a Whitehall Lane 2021 Napa Valley Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc ($29.99). The acidity in this Bordeaux-style wine doesn’t clash with the acidity of the tomatoes and will soften the creaminess of the burrata.
Burrata Cheese With Cherry Tomatoes And Basil Oil
2 balls fresh burrata cheese, 4 ounces each (available at Whole Foods Market) 12 multi colored cherry tomatoes 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus a tablespoon for ciabatta 1 bunch basil, washed and dried (save a few sprigs for garnish) 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar 1 teaspoon salt 1 loaf ciabatta bread
To peel tomatoes, score them and dip into boiling water, then transfer to ice water with slotted spoon. Once the tomatoes are cool, use your fingers or a paring knife to peel and discard the skin (For an easier presentation, skip removing the skins, and simply slice the tomatoes in half). Place tomatoes in bowl. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 basil leaves, salt, and sherry vinegar and add it to tomatoes and marinate for about 2 hours.
Put remaining basil in a blender with ¼ cup olive oil. Blend at medium speed. Increase speed to high and gradually add remaining ½ cup olive oil. Blend until smooth. (Leftover basil oil is delicious drizzled over chicken, fish, vegetables or with some crusty bread).
Use a serrated knife to cut the ciabatta bread into 4 thin slices, place them on a baking pan and season with salt and olive oil and toast the bread.
Place the burrata cheese balls onto a plate or shallow bowl. The burrata can be left as whole balls or can be torn into smaller pieces. Arrange cherry tomatoes around the burrata. Drizzle the basil oil over the top of the salad and around the plate, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and garnish it with two slices of the toasted bread, and small whole fresh basil leaves. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: Two servings