Burrata cheese is fresh mozzarella that has been stretched into hollow balls, filled with rich cream and stored in fresh rennet water. A sublimely rich delicacy, it is soft, quite perishable (3 to 4 days refrigerated), fragile and a bit challenging to handle. Burrata remained relatively unknown outside the world of authentic Italian restaurants, chic caterers and upscale cheese retailers until someone figured out that sealing the balls and rennet water inside plastic containers extended its shelf life by at least a week or more, enabling it to be sent it through distribution centers protected and fresh until it reached retail markets. Within months Burrata became the darling of America’s foodies.
Fresh mozzarella has a mild, unsalted flavor and a slightly bouncy texture created when it is stretched. The thinness of the burrata ball and the added cream make it milder and softer than plain fresh mozzarella, and served at room temperature exquisitely compliment simple pastas (Farfalle with sage butter sauce), sautéed winter squashes and late summer fruits like peaches, nectarines, plums or apples.
Each burrata ball (about 2”+ in diameter) is large enough for two portions, so while the soft exterior and fluid inside cannot withstand slicing, one ball cut in half and held cut side up to keep the cream inside works well set along side or directly on top of foods.
This version combines ripe plums, a nutty vinaigrette, crisp yellow green butter lettuce, tart/sweet balsamic glaze and rich almost liquid Burrata into a celebration of early autumn’s taste, texture and color contrasts.
Plum and Burratta Salad
- Burrata costs upwards of $20 per pound and has about a 2-week shelf life after it is made. Chances are that by the time it gets onto the retail market shelf, one week may already have passed, so it should be used right away. I have seen it in two different packages. In one, individual balls are sealed in a plastic bag, wrapped in pretty green paper and tied with a bow. The other contains two balls submerged in rennet water and sealed in a plastic tub. Because neither package has a processing date and the sell by date is absurdly long, it is difficult to know when the cheese was made. I can look into the plastic tub and see if the balls are smooth and in tack or beginning to fall apart.
- The flavor and texture of burrata is best at room temperature.
- Most recipes I have found that call for peaches, plums or nectarines specify roasting them. While roasting softens the fruit and compensates for the lack of sugar in not quite ripe fruit, I think roasting compromises the contrast between the fruit and the cheese. The secret to selecting stone fruits for this salad is carefully picking out those that are sweet ripe but not soft. Good excuse to shop at a farmers market or ask the produce manager to select for you. Also, if you cannot smell the fruit’s defining aroma, it’s probably not ripe.
- The salad needs to be put together just before serving, but prepping the lettuce, vinaigrette and plums ahead of time makes the last minutes just 3 or 4.
½ cup chopped, roasted almonds or pistachios
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic (preferably summer)
½ tsp. ground fennel or 2 tbs. minced green fennel frond
½ cup finely chopped scallion or shallot
1 heaping tbs. lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup minced fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
1 medium size head fresh Bib lettuce
8 slices thinly shaved fresh fennel bulb
4 large ripe dark-skinned plums, cut in half and pitted
2 balls Burrata, room temperature, drained on paper towel for 2-3 minutes
Combine all ingredients but salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Stir together until all ingredients are covered with oil. Wait for flavors to set (about 3 or 4 minutes). Taste and correct seasoning with salt and enough pepper to provide a bite.
- Wash, dry and tear lettuce leaves into generous bite size pieces.
- Toss salad with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the lettuce. More vinaigrette will be drizzled over the fruit, fennel and cheese, so err on the side of light touch. Divide among chilled salad plates.
- Cut plum halves into wedges and place over the top of the lettuce, leaving room for ½ ball of Burrata.
- Divide fennel among the servings among the fruit slices.
- Quickly and one at a time, pick up a Burrata ball in your cupped hand and gently cut in half, holding the cut sides up so the cream will not run out. With your other hand, place each half on each salad.
- Drizzle vinaigrette over the fruit, fennel and cheese. Serve immediately.