Have you noticed how sometimes an ingredient you'd never heard of before is suddenly on menus everywhere? Sometimes, such ingredients are nothing but trendy, seeming to vanish as quickly as they arrived. But other times, they stay around, becoming wonderful standbys we enjoy often, can find in markets everywhere, and learn to prepare in our own kitchens.
That is certainly the case with the Italian cheese known as burrata.
The name of this cousin of mozzarella literally means "buttered," but it gets its distinctive character not from butter but from cream. Burrata is made in a process that, though distinctive, is fairly easy to understand.
Do you know how mozzarella cheese can be easily pulled apart into rag-like layers? Well, long ago, thrifty Italian cheese makers found a way to make use of leftover scraps, or ritagli, of mozzarella, stuffing them into elastic little pouches that they then filled with cream and tied off with a topknot to seal in the filling. The result was a kind of super-soft mozzarella that oozed creamy richness with every bite.
I love to eat burrata on its own, accompanied by crusty bread or some grilled crostini rubbed with garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. From there, you can make it the star of all kinds of simple salads -- accompanied by fresh sun-ripened tomatoes and fresh basil leaves; or by grilled radicchio or broccolini; or with other vegetables you like. Thinly sliced prosciutto or any other good-quality ham you enjoy would make another great addition. And fruit goes beautifully with burrata, from the autumn pears in the recipe I share here to fresh figs to slices of juicy melon such as cantaloupe or honeydew.
Where to look for burrata? You'll find it nowadays not only in Italian delis and gourmet foods shops but also in the cheese departments of many well-stocked supermarkets.
Many people mistakenly think that the burrata they eat is imported from Italy. In fact, some of the best burrata served in restaurants and enjoyed at home today is now made in the United States, both by small boutique dairies and also by larger cheese-making companies that were founded years ago by Italian immigrant families. That only makes sense, because freshness is key to good burrata. Check a packaging or sell-by date before you buy the cheese. Refrigerate it, wrapped airtight, as soon as you get it home, and serve the cheese as soon as possible -- but no later than a couple of days after purchase.
Try my recipe to help you savor burrata at its best. Then have fun coming up with your own variations, making this now-popular cheese part of your own regular kitchen repertoire.
AUTUMN PEAR AND BURRATA SALAD WITH EISWEIN VINAIGRETTE
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