Monday, August 9, 2010

much ado about burrata

In recent months, a number of food publications have put the spotlight on Burrata, an artisanal Italian cheese handmade in the style of buffalo mozzarella.  Burrata, which translates to ‘buttery’ in Italian, differs from traditional buffalo mozzarella in that the center is filled with bits of mozzarella and cream just before the ball is sealed. 

After reading a handful of articles touting its virtues, I decided to find out what all the fuss was about.  Fortunately, the trend had already made its debut at DeLaurenti, an Italian import store in the Pike Place Market with an extensive selection of imported and domestic cheese.    Their Burrata came prepackaged in a powder blue tub with ‘Angelo & Franco’ imprinted on the lid.  I left with the newly acquired cheese in my market tote and headed around the corner to Frank’s Produce where I selected a posy of fragrant basil and a good-sized Brandywine heirloom tomato, so ripe its flesh was nearly bursting through the skin.

At home, I removed one ball of Burrata from the container and gave it a gentle poke to get a sense of how much liquid was inside.  It quivered slightly but still had some give.  Before cutting it open, I sliced the tomato and prepared a balsamic reduction by cooking down balsamic vinegar until it reduced to a sweet, musky syrup.  Once I took a knife to the cheese, I was relieved to find it soft but not the puddle of cream I had anticipated.  Bits of mozzarella mixed in with the cream kept the insides relatively intact. 

For serving, I gingerly placed unkempt slices of Burrata atop each round of deep red tomato, added basil confetti and finished with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of flaky Maldon sea salt.  The tomatoes were served as an appetizer, accompanied by slices of crusty baguette.  We ate with our hands, tomato juices dripping from our chins and fingers, every mouthful singing of summer.

Sun-kissed tomatoes, fresh creamy mozzarella, vibrant basil, heady vinegar and crunchy flakes of sea salt united in an intoxicating symphony of flavor and texture.

Messy?  Guaranteed.  Picture perfect?  Not particularly.  Worth trying?  Absolutely.

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