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.