Thursday, December 14, 2017
Cooking

Yes, you can have burrata for dinner

Once, in a restaurant in Puglia, Italy, I ate an entire burrata by myself.

It was not one of those petite, tennis-ball-sized burratas that you see surrounded by heirloom tomatoes in restaurants here in the United States. Nearly as big as a cantaloupe, the burrata, made from mozzarella filled with cream, was bursting on the plate, the oozing cream pooled around it.

I hadn't meant to devour it all, spoonful by luscious spoonful. But once I got going, there was no turning back. That naked burrata, freshly made that morning, had never seen the inside of a fridge, and it was all I wanted for dinner that night.

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Here in the United States, the burratas are smaller and at least a couple of days older by the time they get to the market. They're still luscious, though they can benefit from a bit of embellishment. Even just a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and a drizzle of good olive oil bring out their creaminess.

In this recipe, I go even further, adding a robust salad to turn a lone cheese into a satisfying summer meal. My goal was to take full advantage of the season, and use a variety of vegetables with different colors and textures.

This time of year, I had to include tomatoes and eggplant. The eggplant accentuates the soft richness of the burrata, while the tomatoes make for a sweet and juicy contrast.

Then, for another contrast — this one crisp and snappy — I toss in blanched Romano beans. These flat, broad pole beans are getting easier to find. I've also made this salad with yellow Romano beans, and with dragon's tongue beans, and they work well, too. Or substitute regular green beans or wax beans.

As a final touch, instead of using regular olive oil, I dress the salad with homemade garlic oil. That process does require you to confit some garlic cloves, which sounds fancier and more difficult than it is, and you can do it while you prepare the eggplant. You can spread the leftover garlic confit on grilled bread to serve on the side or save it for future vinaigrettes.

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