Friday, September 27, 2013

Burrata and Buffalo Mozzarella: Cheese Spotlight


Everyone has heard of fresh buffalo mozzarella by now (pictured just below).  Its soft and creamy flesh and slightly nutty flavor makes one wonder why anyone would ever prefer the harder blocks of mozzarella we had been shredding for decades.  After all, fresh buffalo mozzarella can also be shredded or sliced and used for dishes that require melted cheese like pizzas and lasagnas and Eggplant Parmesan.


Of course our favorite use for buffalo mozzarella is still insalata caprese.  We usually slice beefsteak tomatoes in thick slices and top with a thick round slice of buffalo mozzarella.  Then we sprinkle chiffonaded basil slivers.  Very elegant.  But sometimes, just for a change of pace—and in a more rustic mood—we like to cut heirloom tomatoes into thick wedges (since they are harder to cut in perfect round slices) and do the same with the mozzarella.  Then we tear up basil right on top before drizzling olive oil and sprinkling some sea salt crystals.  We learned long ago that the Italians know how to enjoy food: Simple preparations of the best ingredients.


We get our best buffalo mozzarella (Fattorie Garofalo) from Costco.  Oddly enough, this “warehouse” has some of the best gourmet foods, and their cheese selection is amazing.  Do you want a huge chunk (and, yes, you do typically need to get large quantities at Costco) of a triple cream Brie like St. Andre or Delice de Bourgogne?  Do you want some rosemary wrapped Manchego?  Do you want a small round of truffle-dusted Camembert?  Yes, all at Costco.  The cheese I get most frequently at Costco is the buffalo mozzarella though.  These are not cheap, but when we tried an even more expensive one at Whole Foods, we were severely disappointed.  The one at Costco is definitely a bargain in comparison for the quality you get.


Unfortunately, our Costco doesn’t yet carry another type of buffalo mozzarella, so we need to go elsewhere for the richness of burrata that Americans have recently discovered.  Imagine the freshest hand-made buffalo mozzarella, delicately stretched, and then filled with fresh cream and shredded mozzarella (for texture), and then pinched to seal up the creamy center.  For an impulse purchase one day, I paid an astronomical price for ONE ball of burrata (brand name of Gioiella) in an individually-wrapped bag and was expecting to find mostly liquid—which is what it felt like.  I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the bag to discover that there was hardly any water surrounding the cheese.  Instead, what I assumed was liquid was the most delicate of all free-formed cheese pouches.


Very gently, I laid it in a shallow bowl and surrounded it with marinated grilled artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers (picture at the top of post).  Then, once I split the ball in two, I found I had to quickly slice up some fresh French baguette.  You can see why we needed the bread.  The creamy center (as you can get a sense of in the picture below) rolled out, ready to be sopped up with some bread.  You do need to cut the richness of the cheese with something like the roasted red pepper since otherwise it’s sort of like having ice cream for dinner. 


This dish was originally intended for our end-of-dinner salad course.  After enjoying it that way, we’ve decided that it’s so rich that one burrta should be split into four for a starter at an intimate dinner party, with crostini—lots of crostini to soak up the cream!


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