I love burrata any time of year, but when fresh heirloom tomatoes are available, it’s possible to elevate the taste and texture of burrata to a plane of pure bliss. I am going to share with you my favorite burrata concoction.
(Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. It’s formed in pouches about the size of a tangerine, comprised of an outer shell of solid mozzarella filled inside with a silky combination of mozzarella and cream. The word “burrata” means “buttered” in Italian. You can find burrata at the Cheese Board Collective, Berkeley Bowl, or the Country Cheese Coffee Market right across from my office.)
Take a big, juicy, vine-ripened heirloom tomato – these days I am buying the yellow-orange ones from the organic section of Berkeley Bowl West. (They don’t have great sweet tomatoes in the regular section yet, but they do in the organic section.) Slice it horizontally into slabs about 1/3” thick, then cut each slab into 6 wedges, as you would slice a pizza. Lay out the wedges close to each other on a nice platter.
Next, go into your refrigerator and find any veggies that will yield a little burst of flavor, color, or texture when finely diced. I like to use sweet onion (Vidalia) and snap peas, but you could use mild or hot peppers, shallots, fresh corn sliced off the cob, radish, cucumber, etc. The key is to almost mince your ingredient(s), about the size of sunflower seeds, then scatter them (not too thickly – don’t turn it into a vegetable salad) over the tomato wedges. Try to include either sweet onion, red or yellow onion, green onion, shallot, or garlic.
Now plunge your hands into the burrata container – the pouch comes covered in milky water, like fresh mozzarella – and pull the burrata into bite-sized chunks, scattering them over the dressed-up tomato wedges.
Finally, spoon some sweet balsamic vinegar over the burrata chunks (I like fig-infused), drizzle the whole platter with olive oil (I like lemon-infused), sprinkle generously with a tasty salt (I like the Tuscan herb salt they sell in bulk at the Pasta Shop on 4th Street), grind on some fresh pepper, and top with plenty of slivered fresh basil leaves.
Let the platter sit while the flavors comingle and you fry up your crostini: Slice a loaf of good bread (I like Acme’s Pain au Levain) about as thick as your tomato slabs, cut off the crusts (I just snip mine off with kitchen shears), cut each slice into 2 or 3 wedges, and fry the wedges in a heavy skillet in butter and plain olive oil until crisp on the outside but chewy on the inside. Live it up; don’t skimp on the butter and olive oil (I use about 1 part salted butter to 1 part olive oil). Drain your crostini on napkins or paper towels, pile them on a plate, and use them in your hands to scoop up burrata-laden tomato wedges and sop up the mouth-watering juice that collects in the platter.
The burrata platter, plus crostini and a crisp white wine, will make a full summer’s evening meal. Eat it outside with someone you love.