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From the food editor: Burrata inspires a simple, indulgent weeknight meal

Burrata With Pesto and Tomatoes. Photo by Michelle Stark.

Burrata With Pesto and Tomatoes. Photo by Michelle Stark.

Like many avid grocery shoppers, I tend to rely on different stores for different kitchen staples.

Publix has its reliable BOGOs; Winn-Dixie has a loyalty card that can save you lots of money if used frequently. And I will make a special trip to Aldi, the no-frills discount German grocery store with about 100 locations in Florida, for a few certain products.

One of them is cheese. The chain carries a surprisingly wide variety, from smoked Gouda rounds to sliced cheddar to seasonal options like cranberry cinnamon goat cheese. And it is typically cheaper — in some cases, a couple of dollars cheaper — than at other stores.

Recently, I stumbled on a product I hadn't seen before in the store's refrigerated section: burrata. It was a 8-ounce container of the BelGioioso brand for $3.99. Never heard of the Italian cheese? It's a shell of mozzarella that's filled with cream and shaped like a ball, and, yes, it tastes as decadent as it sounds.

It came in handy a couple of days later.

As we settle into a new year, I am trying to get back into the cooking groove. Relying on recipes like the 30-minute dinners we shared in last week's Taste section is important. But so is the whimsical meal you can put together with odds and ends from your refrigerator and pantry.

One night last week, I gave up on the idea that I had the time and energy to create a full meal, and instead had cheese for dinner.

Okay, not just cheese.

But the spread was inspired by the gorgeous burrata I had picked up.

I paired with it some tomatoes and pistachios I had in the pantry. I roasted the tomatoes and turned the nuts into a bright pesto with fresh herbs. You could sub plenty of vegetables for the tomatoes, really whatever you have on hand — red peppers, cauliflower even. Just roast them slightly so they aren't as raw and harsh in flavor. Same with the nuts. Pine nuts are used in classic pesto, but walnuts and pistachios bring their own flavors to the party.

If you don't have fresh herbs, they are worth a trip to the store. But even a makeshift pesto of nuts, olive oil and dried spices like salt, pepper and Italian seasoning provides a nice crunchy condiment to this humble meal.

I had what is admittedly a rare loaf of bread on my kitchen counter, so I toasted it and served it as a vessel for the cheese-tomato-pesto plate. I shared this meal with my husband, but could have easily gobbled it up on my own.

Eating is meant to nourish and sustain us, and sometimes you just have to steer into the burrata, and opt for a meal that is as comforting and simple in its delights as it is filling.

easy

Burrata with Pesto and Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) ball burrata cheese (you can substitute regular mozzarella if you'd like)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios, pine nuts or walnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Baguette or other bread, enough for about 12 2- by 2-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the burrata on a large plate, and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Smash 4 of the garlic cloves, and sprinkle among the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake tomatoes and garlic for about 7 minutes, until tomatoes are just starting to wilt and before garlic is totally brown.
  4. Remove from oven and add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the baking sheet. Shake slightly, and set aside to cool.
  5. While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare your pesto.
  6. Place pistachios, pine nuts or walnuts in a food processor or blender. Add basil and mint, the remaining 2 garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse a few times, then add about 1/4 cup olive oil. Whiz until smoother but still gritty and slightly chunky, adding more olive oil if too coarse. Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed.
  7. Slice baguette or bread into about 2- by 2-inch pieces. Remove burrata from fridge, then spoon cooled tomatoes and garlic onto the plate. Add a few dollops of pesto.
  8. Transfer bread to baking sheet used to cook tomatoes, and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt to taste. Broil in the oven for a few minutes until tops start to brown and bread becomes slightly crusty.
  9. Serve alongside burrata plate. Serves 2 (or, if you're hungry, 1).
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

From the food editor: Burrata inspires a simple, indulgent weeknight meal 01/09/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2017 3:46pm]
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