Saturday, June 28, 2014

Burrata: The It-Cheese of the Summer

I’m declaring burrata the It-Cheese of the Summer. It’s the Lupita Nyong'o of the food world: Fabulous, obsession-worthy, and suddenly everywhere.

The divine beauty that is Lupita Nyong'o.
First, what is it? Burrata tastes like the creamy, sexy love-child of ricotta and mozzarella. It’s a fresh Italian cheese with a thin, outer layer of mozzarella, and filled with a crazy-decadent mixture of rich and buttery-tasting cream and mozzarella.

I first tasted burrata last year while I was in Puglia, Italy, the birthplace of this gorgeous cheese. We ate burrata with breakfast, and I almost fainted with happiness when I first put it in my mouth. I ate it every day for a week, and then went home, heartbroken, thinking I’d never taste it again.

When I saw BelGioioso-brand burrata cheese in my neighborhood grocery store a few months ago, I did a double-take.

“Burrata, it’s you,” I thought to myself. “My long-lost love!”
Minutes later, this 4 oz. hunk of cheese was G-O-N-E.
I’ve only bought it a couple of times, because I can’t be trusted with it. Each time it’s been in the house, I’ve eaten all of it with a spoon…by myself… in a single sitting.

And now, burrata seems to have gone Hollywood. I’ve seen recipes calling for burrata cheese in a ton of magazines so far this summer: O, The Oprah Magazine; Every Day with Rachael Ray; Bon Apetit; and Redbook. And it’s not hard to see why. It’s fresh and creamy, and perfect for a summer night. It pairs equally well with honey as it does with bruschetta.

It’s perfectly acceptable to eat burrata all by itself with a little kosher salt, or spread across a hunk of crusty bread. But a nice way to serve it is atop a “salad pizza,” an idea that I adapted from Andy King, co-owner of the amazing A&J King Artisan Bakers in Salem, MA. He told me during an interview for Northshore Magazine that one of his favorite summertime suppers is a grilled flatbread topped with lettuce and a drizzle of vinaigrette.

Here’s how I interpreted his idea: I made pizza dough (store-bought is fine, too), spread it out on a baking sheet, and topped it with a mixture of:

  • About 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • A big handful of dried parsley
  • A minced garlic clove
  • Salt and pepper
I mean, this is good all by itself, but topping it with greens and burrata cheese makes it extra yummy.

First spread the olive oil mixture evenly across the dough, and top that with a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan. Then, bake the dough at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

It comes out not really like pizza, but more like a very thin cheesy-herb focaccia. Cut or tear it into big pieces, top with fresh lettuce and a simple vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and finally, add dollops burrata cheese across the top. Season with kosher or sea salt.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kale fail

CSA season is finally here!

Our family signed up for a CSA for the first time this year. CSA stands for community-supported agriculture and is a kind of “farm club:” You pay up-front during the winter for a weekly share of the farm’s harvest during the summer and fall. Our CSA runs from mid-June through mid-October, so we’re in for months of farm fun.

Chloe was so excited for the veggie club to start that she woke up asking about it every morning for a week before the CSA’s kick-off. When the day finally arrived to head to the farm and pick up our first share, she was beyond excited.

I couldn’t believe the size of our half share: We got a huge bunch of kale, a head of lettuce, a bag of mesclun mix, a bunch of scallions, two massive turnips, a pint of strawberries and a jug of apple cider.
The fact that we were bringing all this fresh produce home to eat was beside the point. Just going to the farm was an awesome experience for Chloe. At the farm, she rode tire swings, ate cider donuts, watched in hushed excitement as a little duck family came waddling toward us, and fed lettuce to a flock of very hungry and excitable chickens. 

See that look on her face? That’s pure, complete, strawberry-stained joy.
Everything is right in her world. 
Everything in the share was wonderful. Everything except the kale.

That’s because I hate kale. My whole family hates kale. I know I’m supposed to love kale, this exalted and trendy superfood. It’s in smoothies and salads. There are bumper stickers and t-shirts and throw pillows imploring people to eat more of it. And yeah, I know why. WebMD says that one cup of chopped kale boasts:
·         33 calories
·         206% of your daily vitamin A needs
·         134% of vitamin C
·         684% of vitamin K
·         9% of calcium

I feel like hating it is some kind of moral failing on my part. (Although I suspect the people who say they love it are really full of shit*). But still, I try to listen to the bumper stickers and eat more kale when I’m in the mood for self-flagellation. And when kale appeared in our CSA share, I had to make use of it.

I made a kale frittata. In the frittata’s defense, this was the best incarnation of kale I’ve ever tasted. The recipe had its work cut out for it, trying its best to disguise the offending vegetable with Parmesan cheese and pepperoni. It’s not the frittata’s fault that kale is terrible.

So I served up this frittata to the fam, and was thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so bad,” even though I had to chew every bite the way a cow chews her cud. Brian choked his down without a word. Chloe on the other hand, did have a few words for the kale frittata. She ate the first few bites in silence, and then as if unable to hold it in any longer, burst into tears. This wasn’t a tantrum. This was actual, kale-induced pain.

This is a re-enactment of Chloe’s kale face.  
Chloe and I had also made strawberry-rhubarb crisp out of the berries in our CSA share, so I promised the warm, sweet dessert to anyone who could live through the frittata. Dinner played out like a culinary version of good cop-bad cop. Through her tears, Chloe somehow managed to finish almost every bite of her dinner, and I promised never to do that to her again. If kale shows up next week, I’ll call one of my alleged-kale-loving friends and give it away.

I’m so sorry, Chloe. Mommy really does love you.

*Yo, don't write to me telling me how kale is really, actually amazing, and you really do love it, and so do your kids. Lies.