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.
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Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

2 08 2011

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Farmers’ markets are at their peak right now and almost anything that grows during the summer is now available. To take advantage of the bounty, why not make this lasagna which is packed full of summer herbs and vegetables? It’s the perfect dish for entertaining because you can assemble it in advance and bake as guests arrive. The various components take a bit of time to pull together but it’s pretty straightforward and the effort is well worth it. The recipe can also be adapted to suit vegetarians.

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Serves 6 to 8

For a vegetarian version, omit the sausage and double the vegetables.

Pesto Sauce:

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  • 3 mild Italian sausages
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced eggplant (about ½ small eggplant, cut into a ½” dice)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (cut into a ½” dice)
  • ½ small red pepper, diced
  • ½ small yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 fl. oz. (796 ml) can whole tomatoes
  • 5.5 fl. oz. (156 ml) can tomato paste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt to taste

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste

For Assembly:

  • 3 to 5 fresh lasagna sheets (or more to fit the pan)
  • 5 oz. mozzarella, grated (equals about 1 cup loosely packed when grated)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

To Make the Pesto Sauce:

  1. In a food processor or processor cup of a hand blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Make the Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  1. Remove sausage meat from casings. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet or enameled cast iron pot. Add sausage meat and cook until just browned, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove sausage from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onion to the pan and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chopped basil and red pepper flakes and cook for another two minutes.
  3. Pour in tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Add tomato paste and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes until it is thick (béchamel can be prepared during this time – see below). Season tomato sauce with a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Set aside until ready to use. Sauce can be refrigerated up to two days.

To Make the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium-high until just melted. Add flour and quickly whisk into the melted butter. Reduce heat to medium and cook flour mixture for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
  2. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and add another cup of milk. Continue until all milk has been added. Add nutmeg and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste and set aside until ready to use.

Assembling and Baking the Lasagna:

  1. In the bottom of a baking pan measuring 7” X 11” X 2” (2 quarts), spread a thin layer of pesto sauce. Cover with a thin layer of tomato/sausage sauce and top with a drizzle of béchamel.
  2. Place a fresh lasagna noodle on top, cutting sheets to fit the pan as necessary.
  3. Repeat the process: pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel. Top with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. Lasagna can be refrigerated until ready to bake, up to two days.
  4. To Bake: Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake lasagna for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and beginning to brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!
Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

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

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.