This robust salad turns a lone, creamy cheese into a satisfying summer meal.
Once, in a restaurant in Puglia, Italy, I ate an entire burrata by myself.
It was not one of those petite, tennis-ball-size burratas that you see surrounded by heirloom tomatoes in restaurants here in the United States. Nearly as big as a cantaloupe, the wobbly burrata, made from mozzarella filled with cream, was bursting on the plate, the oozing cream pooled around it.
I hadn’t meant to devour it all, spoonful by luscious spoonful. But once I got going, there was no turning back. That naked burrata, freshly made that morning, had never seen the inside of a fridge, and it was all I wanted for dinner that night.
Here in the United States, the burratas are smaller and at least a couple of days older by the time they get to the market. They’re still luscious, though they can benefit from a bit of embellishment. Even just a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and a drizzle of good olive oil bring out their creaminess.
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In this recipe, I go even further, adding a robust salad to turn a lone cheese into a satisfying summer meal. My goal was to take full advantage of the season, and use a variety of vegetables with different colors and textures.
Naturally, it being August, I had to include tomatoes and eggplant. The velvety roasted eggplant accentuates the soft richness of the burrata, while the tomatoes make for a sweet and juicy contrast.
Then, for another contrast — this one crisp and snappy — I also toss in blanched Romano beans. These flat, broad pole beans, which sort of look like steamrollered green beans, are getting easier to find. I’ve also made this salad with yellow Romano beans, and with dragon’s tongue beans (flat yellow beans mottled with purple), and they work well, too. Or substitute regular green beans or wax beans.
As a final touch, instead of using regular olive oil, I dress the salad with heady homemade garlic oil. That process does require you to confit some garlic cloves, which sounds fancier and more difficult than it is, and you can do it while you prepare the eggplant. The great upside is that you can spread the leftover garlic confit on grilled bread to serve on the side. Or save it to mix into future vinaigrettes.
This elaborate salad may take more time than just plopping a burrata on top of some baby arugula — or eating it straight with a spoon. And it is worth every moment spent.
BURRATA WITH ROMANO BEANS AND ROASTED EGGPLANT
Makes 4 servings
1 ¼ pounds eggplant, diced in 1-inch pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed for cooking beans
8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved (about 1 ½ cups)
1 pound Romano beans, trimmed
¼ cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers, drained
¼ cup torn fresh mint
¼ cup torn fresh basil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, more as needed
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, as needed
Black pepper, as needed
12 ounces burrata
Crusty bread, toasted or grilled, for serving
1. Put eggplant in a colander. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and let stand in the sink to drain for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, make garlic oil: Place garlic cloves in a small pot and cover with 1/3 cup olive oil. Place over very low heat and cook gently until soft and pale golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Mash garlic with a fork, then strain the oil into a jar or little bowl, pressing hard on the solids. (Use the solids, known as garlic confit, as a spread for bread or keep to mix into vinaigrettes or marinades. It will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator.)
3. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Squeeze out as much excess liquid from eggplant as possible (or pat very dry). Toss eggplant with 1/3 cup olive oil and spread out on one or two rimmed baking sheets so the pieces aren’t touching. (This makes for the best browning.) Roast, tossing once or twice, until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a bowl and toss with tomatoes and 3 tablespoons garlic oil.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in Romano beans and cook until just tender, three to six minutes depending on their size and thickness. Drain well under cold running water. Cut into 1-inch pieces; add to bowl of eggplant.
5. Toss olives, capers, mint, basil, vinegar and a little more garlic oil into salad. Season with flaky salt and pepper.
6. Place cheese in the center of a serving platter and surround with salad. Drizzle with more garlic oil if you like, and sprinkle with more flaky sea salt. Serve with crusty bread.