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

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CHEESE
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Bruschetta topped with burrata and tapenade

McClatchy Newspapers photos

CHEESE
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Shaved zucchini, radishes and mint topped with burrata

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Bruschetta with tapenade -- Spread grilled bread moderately thickly with tapenade and top with a generous spoonful of burrata. Drizzle with just a little peppery olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper.

Bruschetta with radicchio marmalade -- Cook slivered radicchio slowly with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar until the flavor is nearly sweet. Spread some of this marmalade on grilled bread and top with a hunk of burrata. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season generously with black pepper.

Spring salad with prosciutto and peas -- Arrange slices of prosciutto in ruffles around the outside of a platter. Place the burrata in the center. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice and basil. Toss blanched fresh peas in the vinaigrette and scatter over the top of the burrata. Spoon a little of the remaining vinaigrette on top of the cheese.

Summer salad with prosciutto, arugula, and figs -- Arrange slices of prosciutto in a ruffle around the outside of a platter. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil and lemon juice. Toss torn arugula in the vinaigrette and place it in the middle of the platter. Place hunks of burrata on top of the arugula. Slice fresh figs in half or in quarters, depending on the size, toss them in the remaining vinaigrette and scatter them over the top. If you have hidden away some saba or aged balsamic vinegar, this would be a good place to use it.

Roasted red bell pepper roll-ups -- Roast red bell peppers on the grill or in a 400-degree oven. When the skin has wrinkled and begun to blacken, place the peppers in a plastic bag to steam briefly. Remove the skin with your fingers and remove the stem and seeds. Cut the peppers into slabs and roll up each around a small piece of burrata. Arrange on a platter and dress lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and torn basil leaves.

Tomato risotto -- Make a risotto, starting with a base of chopped tomatoes. When the rice is cooked, stir in skeins of burrata so the cheese melts slightly and gets stringy. Scatter over slivered basil.

A TASTE TEST OF BURRATAS

It seems like another age now, but it wasn't so long ago that burrata could be hard to find. There are several brands available today, though, so I picked up four of the best for an impromptu at-home comparison tasting.

The results were surprising. The two best burratas were also the least expensive. And considering burrata's reputation as a slightly bland cheese, the best brand was head-and-shoulders above the rest.

Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise, since it comes from the cheesemaker who pioneered burrata in America.

It should be noted that this was the result of what I could buy on a single given day; burrata is notoriously dependent on being freshly made and, theoretically anyway, another day could have yielded another result. In order, then:

1. Gioia Cheese (gioiacheeseinc.com) -- Not very promising at first. It comes in a huge 1-pound ball that has practically molded itself to the container. But cut the ball open and the picture changes completely. The skin is thin and silky, not rubbery. The filling is slightly firm and raggy but still voluptuous. And the flavor is really terrific, sweet with a complex dairy flavor. This is one terrific cheese. 62 cents per ounce, available at Bristol Farms.

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Burrata surrounded by heirloom tomatoes

  


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