Mozzarella and Burrata
As you may have noticed, the grocery stores and the farmers markets are loaded with fresh tomatoes of all sizes, shapes and colors: small Lemon Pears, round Lemon Boys, bright red Super Sweet 100s and pink Brandywines. That's a good thing for me, since the hot, dry summer has slowed my garden tomato production of those varieties for now. We hope it's a good thing for you, as well.
We love dressing slices of large tomatoes or a bowl of halved cherry tomatoes with a handful of fresh basil, good extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and a small drizzle of an aged balsamic vinegar. Fresh tomatoes like these cry out for Insalata Caprese, the classic Italian pairing of fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Cheese is probably one of the oldest foods and, like many wonderful things to eat, was probably a happy accident, but is Burrata cheese healthy? Nearly four thousand years ago the Chinese and people in the Middle East used animal stomachs to transport food. In the case of milk, the rennet in the stomach lining is a natural coagulant. Walk a few days with milk in your natural backpack and, mamma mia! cheese.
During the Middle Ages, the Romans turned cheese making into an art.
The best mozzarella in Italy comes from Puglia in the south, where it is made with water buffalo milk and called mozzarella di bufala. It is called fior di latte if cow milk is used. The fresh mozzarella and burrata in Puglia are not considered cheese (formaggio), but are called latticini (dairy product) and are customarily eaten fresh.
Mozzarella and burrata are also known as pasta filata, cheeses that are pulled and stretched and are meant to be consumed within a day of production. That's why locally made mozzarella will be better than imported mozzarella - it's all about the freshness.
While mozzarella is a soft, fresh cheese, it has a firm consistency. Burrata is related to mozzarella, but different. Burrata is made by pressing a ball of mozzarella into a flat piece, forming a pocket, then adding a mixture of cream and stracciatella (strips of mozzarella) to the pocket and sealing it. In a sense, it's a ball of mozzarella with a creamy, cheesy center.
Another popular Southern Italian salad is Insalata di Pomodoro e burrata con pangrattato e basilico or Tomato and Burrata Salad with bread crumbs and Basil. It's easy to make variations of this with stale or fresh bread for the pangrattato, or just simply add some bread cut into chunks.
Recipe for 4
3/4 pound of heirloom tomatoes or any ripe, flavorful tomato (cored and cut into chunks)
8-10 cherry tomatoes halved (yellow or red)
M'tucci's Sourdough (2-3 slices), light toasted or slightly stale, cut into cubes (optional to rub them with a bit of fresh garlic before chopping)
1/3 - 1/2 C. Fresh Basil
1 ball of M'tucci's Burrata
Lightly salt tomatoes and place in a colander to drain about 30 minutes.
If you don't toast the bread, saut it in a bit of EVOO for a crispy, olive oil flavor. Combine tomatoes, chopped basil, and bread, then cut the fresh burrata into chunks, taking care to reserve the creamy liquid.
Add the burrata chunks and toss with a bit of EVOO and the creamy liquid. Dress the top with balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper to taste.