Have you ever had burrata cheese? If you follow food trends, you may know that it’s one of those “it” ingredients these days. The “it” status is well warranted because it is over the top amazing and it makes this salad, which has so many wonderful things going for it, a masterpiece.
Burrata is an Italian invention and it is essentially mozzarella and cream. Really. The outer part is pure mozzarella and the inside is a soft mixture of mozzarella and cream. Or it can just be described as mozzarella times 10. It can be hard to find (Seattle people can find it at DeLaurenti) and it is expensive ($28/pound) but it really is one of those magical transforming things.
Because it is so rich, you really don’t need much. I scaled up this recipe and was planning on buying 1 1/2 pounds of it. When I saw the price, I quickly brought that amount back down to 1/2 pound and supplemented with fresh mozzarella (again for Seattle folks, DeLaurenti makes their own mozzarella on the weekends.) As I was tucking the cheese in among those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, I realized that I probably didn’t even need the extra cheese. The guys, all of whom had never heard of burrata, went totally crazy over this salad – especially the cheese.
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One Year Ago: Farro with Green Beans and Corn
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata, Torn Croutons, and Opal Basil
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
This is the recipe as written but as I mentioned above, you could use less cheese. If you are unable to find burrata, I would use fresh ricotta or soft goat cheese rather than mozzarella. If this recipe seems overly fussy for what is essentially a tomato and bread salad, please proceed and make it. It’s worth the effort.
1/3 pound country white bread
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. oregano leaves
1/2 clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, assorted sizes, shapes, and colors
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
2 tablespoons sliced opal basil
2 tablespoons sliced green basil
1 pound burrata cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the crust off the bread and tear the remaining loaf into rustic 1-inch pieces. Using your hands, toss the pieces with 2 tablespoons olive oil, squeeze the bread gently to help it absorb the oil. Toast on a baking sheet 12 to 15 minutes, stirring a few times, until the croutons are golden brown and crispy on the outside but still a little soft and tender inside.
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the oregano, garlic, and a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vinegars. Whisk in the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil and taste for balance and seasoning. (DT: If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, place the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle the salt over it. Using the side of your knife, smoosh the garlic and salt together until you get a paste. Then cut the oregano very finely into the paste.)
Stem the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Core the heirloom tomatoes. Cut half of them into wedges and set them aside. Then one by one, hold the remaining tomatoes on their sides and cut them into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Season the slides with the fleur de sel and some pepper. Place the slices overlapping on a large platter, spoon a little of the vinaigrette over them, and scatter a little basil on top.
Cut the burrata into twelve slices, and tuck them in and around the slabs of tomato. (DT: My cheese was too soft to cut so I just pulled of almond sized pieces and scattered it around.)
Toss the heirloom wedges and cherry tomatoes gently in a large bowl with the sliced shallots, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, a pinch of pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning, adding more vinaigrette if you like. Gently toss in the croutons.
Arrange the salad on the platter, piling it in the center, allowing the slices of tomato and cheese to peek through. Scatter the parsley and remaining basil leaves over the top of the salad.