September 18, 2013

Creamy, raggy burrata's the bee's knees in world of cheese

Here are 10 ways to serve it, and results of a taste test of four brands. Go ahead; have a ball.

By RUSS PARSONS/McClatchy Newspapers

As sure as autumn's harvest brings ripe vegetables aplenty, it also sparks a craving for burrata. They go hand-in-hand, nearly perfect by themselves, utterly profound when combined.

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Bruschetta topped with burrata and tapenade

McClatchy Newspapers photos

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Shaved zucchini, radishes and mint topped with burrata

Additional Photos Below

If there is a sure thing in cooking, it would be a platter of ripe tomato wedges -- use different types for a mix of shapes, sizes and colors -- surrounding a ball of burrata, split open to show the creamy, ragged insides. Add a little olive oil, maybe some vinegar, and a good sprinkling of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and you've got a dish that you'll be dreaming about long after perfect tomatoes have disappeared.

It seems the whole country goes burrata-crazy at this time of year. And why not? Stretch a thin skin of mozzarella around a voluptuous filling of mozzarella rags and cream, and how can that be bad?

Funny thing, then, that the cheese was largely unknown in this country until an Apulian immigrant named Vito Girardi started making it at Gioia Cheese in South El Monte, Calif., in the early '90s. (There is an alternate theory that it was introduced by Mimmo Bruno, whose son runs Di Stefano Cheese in Pomona, Calif., but Valentino's Piero Selvaggio -- the first restaurateur to sell it -- credits Girardi.)

With a product as delicious as burrata, the simplest preparations are almost always the best. Here are 10 ways to enjoy it -- at any time of year.

Grilled vegetable pizza -- Top a rolled-out pizza dough with a layer of raw tomato salsa (just chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, salted and drained), and a few pieces of grilled zucchini and eggplant chopped up. Bake it as hot as your oven will go. After the pizza is done, but while it is still hot, top it with pieces of burrata.

Roasted tomatoes -- Slice plum tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange them in one layer in a baking dish. Add a few whole garlic cloves. Pour over olive oil to come halfway up. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake at 300 degrees until the tomatoes start to shrivel and brown -- a couple of hours. Cool and spoon some tomatoes onto a plate, put a torn hunk of burrata in the middle (the insides should show ... it's the best-looking part).

Shaved zucchini, radishes and mint -- Slice the zucchini lengthwise about 1/8 inch thick. Salt and set aside in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry. Slice radishes paper thin. Make a vinaigrette with peppery olive oil, lemon juice and torn mint leaves. Put the burrata in the center of the plate. Dress the zucchini lightly with the dressing and arrange around and over the burrata. Dress the radishes lightly and scatter them over top. Spoon just a little of the dressing over all.

Winter salad with roasted beets and blood oranges -- Trim the tops and roots of several beets. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast at 400 degrees until tender enough to pierce easily with a knife. Rub away the peel with your fingers and cut into wedges. Season with olive oil and red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper and toss to coat evenly. Arrange on a platter with blood oranges cut in circles, and top with pieces of burrata. Drizzle the cheese with just a little more olive oil, salt and pepper.

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Burrata surrounded by heirloom tomatoes

  


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