Burrata with Tomato and Basil

31 08 2011

Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and basil makes a great appetizer or first course

With summer produce at its best right now, we can rely on top quality ingredients to keep cooking simple. One classic summer dish that couldn’t be easier is Insalata Caprese – a salad made with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and sea salt. For an interesting twist on a standard caprese salad, why not try it with burrata instead?

Colourful heirloom tomatoes give the dish visual appeal

Burrata is a type of fresh mozzarella cheese from Puglia in southern Italy. Each baseball-sized round of burrata is stuffed with mozzarella curds and cream, which spill out once it has been cut. Each ball has a ‘knot’ on top where the cheese was sealed, keeping the cream inside. It is often packaged in a damp wrapping or suspended in liquid to protect it. Burrata is extremely delicate and should be consumed within a few days of production.

Until recently, burrata had to be imported from Italy to North America, however, there are a number of producers now making it in Canada and the United States. In Toronto, I usually buy burrata produced by Quality Cheese or Santa Lucia. It’s usually available at specialty cheese shops including Olympic Cheese, Scheffler’s Deli and the Cheese Boutique. In other areas, a google search should indicate where you can find it (unfortunately it may be difficult to locate outside of urban areas but ask at your local market – they may be able to order it for you).

Fresh basil pairs beautifully with ripe tomatoes

The key to serving burrata is to keep it simple. A simple drizzle with olive oil and a dash of sea salt will suffice but I like to showcase peak season tomatoes and basil to take it to the next level. Prepare some Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crisps to spread it on (see recipe below). Use good quality olive oil, sea salt and the best quality fresh tomatoes and basil you can find. Be sure to bring the burrata to room temperature for a half hour or so before serving. This dish only takes minutes to put together and will be sure to impress your guests as an appetizer or starter dish.

Burrata with Tomato and Basil

  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups good quality tomatoes (any kind will do as long as they are ripe and sweet – heirloom varieties come in many colours and are visually appealing)
  • 4 to 5 large fresh basil leaves, plus extra sprigs for garnish
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch or two of sea salt
  • Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crisps (below)
  1. Remove burrata from its packaging and use a clean towel or paper towel to dry it. Set it on a serving platter and let it come to room temperature for at least a half hour before serving.
  2. Chop the tomatoes and basil (to chop basil, see my tip on How to Chop Fresh Herbs)
  3. Place the tomatoes around the burrata and sprinkle with chopped basil. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the cheese and tomatoes and season with a pinch or two of sea salt.
  4. Use a knife and spoon to serve on crisps.

Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crisps

Tip: These crisps can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container for a couple of days. However, if you don’t have time to make them, Ace Bakery sells a similar product that works well. You can also serve the burrata with toasted baguette slices or even crackers.

  • 1 baguette
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup (approximately) extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 1 clove fresh garlic (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Slice a baguette into rounds about 1/2“ thick. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes or until the bottoms are golden brown and toasted. Turn crisps over and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Crisps can be kept in an airtight container for a few days.
  5. To make garlic crisps: Peel a clove of garlic and rub it onto each crisp.

Burrata is delicious served on Olive Oil and Sea Salt Crisps

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!
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Portions of this article first appeared on Suite 101.com. Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.




Radicchio and Scamorza Risotto

15 03 2011

Scamorza Affumicate: A smoked cheese that is similar to mozzarella and provolone

I recently returned from a trip to northern Italy and have been busy working on my own versions of some of the dishes I enjoyed there. One of those dishes was a smoky risotto with sautéed radicchio that I had one day for lunch.  It was a cool, rainy day and the hearty richness of the risotto paired with a glass of Piedmontese wine was the perfect way to warm up.

Sourcing Ingredients

Scamorza is a cheese that is similar to provolone or mozzarella.  The smoked version (affumicate) is darker in colour and has a firm smoky rind and soft interior. Scamorza affumicate can be found at many cheese shops but you can substitute smoked mozzarella or smoked provolone if you can’t find it.  The scamorza rind is edible but won’t melt as easily so it can be trimmed if desired.

Radicchio at an Italian market

Radicchio is a leafy vegetable that is related to chicory.  Raw radicchio can be quite bitter but it mellows when sautéed or grilled. It can usually be found near the lettuce or cabbage in supermarkets and is easily recognizable by its bright purple leaves.

If it is your first time making risotto, you might find this primer helpful for information about ingredients: Basic Risotto.

Radicchio and Scamorza Risotto

Makes about 4 servings as a starter

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chopped radicchio (about 1 small head), plus extra for garnish and to make radicchio ‘cups’ (optional, see below)
  • 1 cup raw carnaroli rice (you can use arborio if carnaroli isn’t available)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • About 3-1/2 to 4* cups chicken or vegetable stock – be sure to use vegetable stock if cooking for vegetarians
  • 4 oz. (113 grams) smoked scamorza cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes (equals about 3/4 cup of cubed cheese)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt, to taste
  1. In a large deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until it’s beginning to soften, about two minutes.  Add the radicchio and sauté for another two minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add rice and sauté for another 2 minutes, stirring periodically.  Pour in the wine and stir the rice.  Reduce heat and let simmer gently until the wine is completely absorbed, about 3 minutes.
  3. Once the wine has completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the stock.  Let the rice simmer gently, stirring occasionally.  Once the stock has almost fully absorbed (about 4 minutes), add another 1/2 cup of the stock.
  4. Repeat the process of adding the stock a half-cup at a time once it has almost absorbed. Continue until the rice is creamy and cooked through but still has a very slight ‘bite’ in the middle of the grains (al dente).  Stir the rice on occasion and keep an eye on it.  It will take approximately 6 to 7* additions of stock in half-cup increments (*Note: the rice may require a little more or less stock, depending on how absorbent it is).
  5. Once the rice is cooked to the desired tenderness, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and cheese. Stir into the risotto until completely melted.  Season with salt to taste.
  6. To serve: If you want to make radicchio ‘cups’, trim off the root end of a fresh head of radicchio. Carefully peel back the whole leafs, making sure not to tear them. Arrange three or four leaves on a plate in a circle to make a cup shape. Fill with risotto and garnish with a small amount of fresh chopped radicchio.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Radicchio and Scamorza Risotto in a radicchio cup

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Tartiflette

28 02 2011

 

L'Eglise St. Michel in Chamonix, France

I recently returned from a fantastic two-week trip to Italy and France.  It was the perfect holiday: the architecture and scenery were stunningly beautiful and I never tire of strolling the streets of European cities, window-shopping and people watching.  And then, of course, there was the food.

We spent some time in Torino, Italy (more on that later) and then headed to Chamonix in the French Alps for a bit of skiing. The commune of Chamonix is located in the Haute-Savoie region, just across the border from Italy at the foot of Mont Blanc. The area is surrounded by mountains and has a vibrant scene in the evenings once everyone has retired from the slopes for the day.

 

Haute-Savoie specialties include excellent cheeses such as Tomme de Savoie, cured meats and wine

The cuisine of the Alps is seasonally-based and includes local wines,cured meats and fantastic cheeses such as tomme, abondance, reblochon and raclette. Dining in Chamonix is typically casual and restaurants often feature fun communal dishes like raclette (a local cheese that is melted and scraped onto potatoes), fondue (both oil-based and cheese-based) and hot stone (pierre-chaud) cooking, where slices of meat or poultry are cooked at the table on a heated stone. Onion and vegetable soups are common starters and potatoes often accompany meals.  However, my favourite local specialty was tartiflette.

Tartiflette: a Savoyard dish made with onions, potatoes, bacon, cream and cheese

Tartiflette, contrary to what I had thought, is not a tart but a dish of potatoes, onions, cream and bacon with cheese melted on top.  Honestly, with those ingredients, you could probably stick an old shoe in there and it would still be delicious!  It’s not light but after a vigorous day of outdoor winter activities, it fits the bill perfectly.

A day of vigorous activity and fresh Alpine air will work up an appetite for the rich foods of the region

In the Savoie region, reblochon is the type of cheese typically used in tartiflette.  It can be found in North America at most good cheese shops, however, if it is not available, you can substitute a tomme, fontina, raclette or brie (bearing in mind that the taste of the finished dish will be different but no less delicious).

Tartiflette

Serves 2 to 4 (it’s quite rich but if diners are very hungry, it will serve 2 – the recipe can easily be doubled)

This recipe is a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes.

  • 6 oz. (170 grams) slab bacon, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 1 medium to large (about 6 oz / 170 g) yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups diced peeled and cooked potatoes (cut into a 1/2″ dice) – about 2 large potatoes
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 7 to 8 oz. (200 to 226 g) reblochon cheese (see above for substitutions)
  1. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add the diced bacon. Cook the bacon until almost crisp, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped onion to the bacon. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked potato chunks to the skillet and stir until the mixture is combined.  Pour in the half-and-half and simmer gently on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While the mixture is simmering, prepare the cheese. Slice the reblochon into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. Use a sharp knife to trim off the rind if desired (the rind is edible but it may be quite strong tasting and have a slightly gritty texture).
  5. Spoon the potato mixture into individual oven-proof dishes or one large casserole dish (if the skillet has an oven-proof handle, you can keep it in the pan if desired). Lay the sliced cheese in an even layer over the potato mixture.
  6. Place the oven rack in the top position and turn on the broiler. Broil the tartiflettes until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 minutes (watch carefully – it can burn in an instant!)
  7. Let cool slightly and serve with a lightly dressed green salad.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Serve tartiflette with a lightly dressed green salad to cut the richness





How to Serve Burrata

15 12 2010

Creamy burrata drizzled with olive oil and served with toast rounds is sure to impress at your next party

We’re in the middle of the holiday entertaining season and no party is complete without a cheese board.  Why not move beyond the usual brie/cheddar/blue cheese and splurge on something special?  Burrata is a fresh mozzarella ball filled with rich cream. It’s decadent, delicious and perfect for impressing your friends.  Until recently, burrata was only produced in Italy but a number of cheese makers in Canada and the United States are now making it domestically.

Check out an article I wrote about where to buy and how to serve burrata: How to Serve Burrata (Fresh Mozzarella Cheese from Puglia, Italy).

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Cheddar Herb Biscuits

30 09 2010

Freshly baked biscuits flecked with herbs and cheddar are the perfect accompaniment to a hearty bowl of soup

Now that fall has arrived and the weather has cooled, it’s soup season!  I love making soup and am always experimenting with different ingredients to come up with hearty versions that are a meal on their own (see below for links to my favourite soup recipes).  Of course, crackers or bread are classic accompaniments to a comforting bowl of soup but why not try something different by making some hot, fresh biscuits?

Some people are a bit intimated by working with biscuit dough but it’s not difficult if you follow a few guidelines. To make flaky and flavourful biscuits, here are a few tips:

  • Use cold, unsalted butter – don’t substitute margarine.
  • Don’t handle the dough too much.  This will make the biscuits tough and melt the butter, keeping them from puffing up during baking.
  • Use a wire pasty cutter (or two sharp knives) to cut the butter into the flour mixture.  The dough should look like small, coarse pebbles once the dough has been thoroughly mixed in.
  • Baking powder is the key ingredient to help the biscuits rise.  Make sure your powder is fresh and still active.
  • Buttermilk gives the biscuits a nice tangy flavour.  If you don’t have buttermilk, check out these Buttermilk Substitutes.  Regular milk is ok in a pinch but the biscuits won’t be quite the same.
  • Use old or extra old cheddar for the best flavour.
  • Cook the biscuits in a hot oven (450 degrees Fahrenheit) that has been adequately pre-heated.

Cheddar Herb Biscuits

Makes about 12 biscuits

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the countertop
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons very finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup (packed) grated old cheddar cheese
  • 5 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and chopped herbs. Stir with a fork until combined.
  3. Add the grated cheese and use your fingers to gently distribute it through the dough so it’s not all in one clump.
  4. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture.  Using a wire pastry cutter or two sharp knives, cut the butter into the dough until it looks like small pebbles.
  5. In a mug or glass measuring cup, add the buttermilk, egg and mustard and stir with a fork until smooth.  Pour into the flour mixture and gently mix together until the dough just holds together.
  6. Sprinkle some flour onto a clean countertop and turn out the dough onto the counter.  Use your hands to shape it so it just holds together.  Flatten the dough so it’s in a circle about 1″ thick.
  7. Use a cookie cutter or the top of a glass to cut out round biscuits (a 2-1/2″ circle is a good size).  Place the biscuits into a pie plate or baking dish so they are just touching one another.  Re-form any dough scraps and cut out the remainder of the biscuits.
  8. Let the biscuits rest in a warm place for 15 minutes.  Place the oven rack in the centre position and bake the biscuits for 15 minutes or until they are golden on top.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Here are a few of my favourite hearty autumn soups to go with the biscuits:

Beef, Barley and Mushroom

Peppery Leek and Potato

Curried Parsnip Soup

Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers

Cabbage Roll Soup

Chicken Noodle

Mushroom Soup

Seafood Chowder

Curried Parsnip Soup topped with a few cooked mussels

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Cheese Toasts

31 03 2010

The first edible item of spring: chives!

A couple of days ago, I was taking some recycling out to the bin beside my house and to my astonishment, peeking out from amongst some dead leaves and sticks in my herb pot was the first edible item of spring!  I’m talking about chives, an oniony herb that is a perennial, meaning it will grow year after year. Chives are very mild so they’re usually used as an accent.  They also add a bit of colour to the plate so they make a great garnish.

This appetizer was inspired by a starter I had at Freemans restaurant in New York City when visiting with a group of friends back in February.  Be sure to use a good quality aged cheddar.  I use Balderson’s 3-Year Old White Cheddar but any decent extra old cheddar will work.

Cheese Toasts

Makes about 10 toasts

  • 1 cup (3 oz.) lightly packed grated aged white cheddar cheese – use extra old cheddar, aged at least 2 to 3 years
  • 1/4 cup dijon-style mustard*
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives, plus extra for garnish if desired
  • 10 baguette slices, cut about 3/4″ thick

*Using a mustard with horseradish such as Grey Poupon Deli Mustard or Kozlik’s Horseradish Mustard makes these toasts even more delicious.

  1. In a small bowl, combine cheese, mustard and chopped chives.  Use a spoon to stir all ingredients together until the mixture is combined and relatively smooth.
  2. Spoon about 1-1/2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture onto each baguette round and spread in an even layer.  Place rounds on a baking sheet.
  3. Heat the broiler of your oven and move an oven rack into the top slot.  Toast the cheese topped rounds under the broiler until bubbling and brown, about 2 minutes.  Watch very carefully – they can burn in seconds.
  4. Remove from the oven, place on a serving plate and sprinkle with a garnish of chopped chives.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

Sharp cheddar, dijon and chives make a simple but delicious appetizer

 





Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta

20 02 2010

 

Beets in cold storage

 

I tend to think of salad as a summer dish, which makes sense considering all the great produce available during the summer months.  Salads are the perfect meal when it’s hot out – crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes and sweet peppers are refreshing when the weather turns humid.  However, salads can work in colder months too. Winter salads can be made with seasonal vegetables such as beets, celery root or potatoes and often incorporate cheese, nuts or meat to make them more substantial. 

Pairing roasted beets with nuts and cheese is not a new idea; in fact, I recently tried a delicious version with gorgonzola and pistachios at Locanda Verde restaurant in New York City.  My version calls for walnuts and feta cheese but goat cheese can be substituted if you’d prefer.  A bright sherry vinegar dressing pulls all of the flavours together.  Don’t skip the pickled shallots – they take a few minutes to make but add a nice sweet-tart element to the salad.  The salad is substantial enough to be a main course but you can always adjust the servings to work as a starter.

Roasting Beets:  To roast beets with minimal mess, trim the roots and greens, if still attached (reserve the greens for another use). Peel the beets and discard peelings. Cut beets into 1-1/2″ cubes and toss in a bowl with a tablespoon of neutral tasting oil such as canola or safflower oil. Spread beet chunks on a baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes or until beets are tender and beginning to caramelize. Wash hands immediately after handling the beets to avoid staining.

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta

(VEGETARIAN)

Makes 2 main course salads or 4 starter course salads

  • 4 cups mixed salad greens
  • 4 beets, cubed and roasted (see ‘Roasting Beets’ above)
  • 1 cup toasted walnut halves
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese or to taste
  • Pickled shallots (see recipe below)
  • Sherry Vinaigrette (see recipe below)

Pickled Shallots

  • 5 shallots, peeled and cut into thin rings (about ½ cup of shallots)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar and vinegar and stir until combined. Bring to a boil and add shallots.
  2. Let mixture simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand until it cools.
  3. Drain vinegar and use pickled shallots as desired

Sherry Vinaigrette

  • 3 Tablespoons of neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • 1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon style mustard
  • A pinch of salt
  1. In a small bowl, add all ingredients and whisk until combined.

To Assemble Salads:

  1. In a large bowl, toss mixed greens with enough vinaigrette to moisten leaves. Assemble greens on plates.
  2. Top greens with beets, walnuts, feta and shallots. Lightly toss each serving until ingredients are combined. Drizzle with more vinaigrette if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta