I made TB&B (Tomato, Basil, Burrata) because we’re at the peak of tomato season. My kitchen is literally rolling in tomatoes after a trip to the Hollywood Farmers Market. Whenever I’m rolling in tomatoes, my mind turns to another perfect orb– burrata. Which fuels a craving for Tomato, Basil, Burrata salad.
Tomato, Basil, Burrata
Tomato, Basil, Burrata (what I call TB&B) is as beautiful as it is delicious. It’s an artistic endeavor that will have you thinking like a painter as you arrange different types of tomato shapes, sizes, and colors– juxtaposing or complimenting each element artfully. The crowning glory is burrata. Nestle a ball into your creation and split it open, exposing the creamy, ragged interior. All you need is basil from the garden, a little olive oil, and a good grind of coarse sea salt and black pepper. There’s no better way to enjoy tomato season.
Burrata is a soft Italian cheese. It comes in balls similar to mozzarella, but it has a soft interior that oozes inside its cheesy casing. It’s an Italian cheese and a specialty of the Puglia region at the heel of Italy’s boot. It’s an area well-known for vegetables, dried pasta, and olive oil. This delicious cheese is another unique part of the rich culinary culture of the area. Being an Italian product, you might assume it’s part of some ancient cheese-making tradition. But actually it’s a rather modern invention. Lorenzo Bianchino Chieppa developed burrata in the 1920s. The source I read says that “[he] had the idea to create a kind of flask of cheese for preserving a mixture of cream and cheese in the center.”
Because of its rather short shelf life– about two weeks– it doesn’t travel well and is difficult to find in many markets. Fortunately, Los Angeles has found a way to keep its citizens “fat and happy” when it comes to this perishable specialty. Gioia Cheese makes a local burrata that rivals the best of the Italian stuff. They also make excellent ricotta, as well as burrata’s cousin and fore-bearer, mozzarella.
But let’s be clear: burrata isn’t mozzarella. Sure they share some characteristics, but comparing burrata to mozzarella is like calling a truffle a black mushroom.
Technically there are similarities, but burrata is more like newborn mozzarella. The exterior skin is chewy like mozzarella, but the soft rags of cheese that float within are swimming in silky cream. The dichotomy of textures is what makes real burrata so special. Silky, chewy, creamy, coarse, smooth, and rich. There’s nothing in food-dom quite the same as slicing into an impeccably made ball of burrata while watching the curds slide like lava over fresh slices of heirloom tomatoes.
Tomato season won’t last forever. Tomato, Basil, Burrata. GREG