Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Burrata or Bust

Yes, it tasted as good as it looks. Both the burrata and the tomatoes. Forget the plastic plate. It's the cheese here that matters. I had been yearning to find some burrata from the moment we arrived in Puglia last month. I had eaten it in that Southern Italian region for the first time years ago, and Puglia's reputation for producing the best burrata is definitely warranted. Burrata, made with mozzarella on the outside, and cream on the inside, has a buttery, rich flavor. Not surprisingly, the word burrata means buttered in Italian. It's become easier to find here in the states, but to savor it where it's made, still warm and oozing with creamy goodness, surrounded by the sounds, sights and smells of Italy, is an unforgettable taste sensation. So when we found ourselves in the white-washed town of Ostuni last month, I had burrata on my mind.

Up and down the streets we roamed, in search of burrata, before finding some at a little hole-in-the -wall that even boasted a trip-advisor sign. I wish I could remember the name of the place, but I was too busy scarfing down the lovely silken cheese to note its name.
The region of Puglia is largely unknown to most American tourists, who stick to the major cities of Rome, Florence and Venice. They're all wonderful places too, but there's a whole lot of beauty awaiting farther afield. For instance, Puglia boasts a unique UNESCO World Heritage site in a town called Alberobello, known for its conical shaped houses called "trulli." We stayed in this one (below) at the end of the row and it was completely enchanting. The town is definitely not undiscovered. There are tourists everywhere, but the majority aren't Americans.
Puglia also has miles of coastline with both sandy and rocky beaches to choose from. This beautiful beach was outside our hotel near Gallipoli and provided the perfect place to decompress for a few days.
But back to the cheese. On this latest trip, I ate more burrata and mozzarella than my waistline was happy about. But my feeling is when in Italy, throw caution to the wind and repent at home. So I forged ahead and ordered the mozzarella whenever I could. If I get grilled veggies with it, doesn't that balance the calories from the cheese? Don't answer that. I don't wanna know.

The best mozzarella di bufala (water buffalo, folks, not the "home on the range" type) is produced in areas from Rome, in the region of Lazio -- to Paestum (near Salerno), in the region of Campania. Paestum is also known for its three Greek temples, in a remarkably good state of preservation, considering they date back to 200 B.C. All along the roadway into the town, you'll see signs saying "latticini," the name for a place that makes dairy products,  including mozzarella. You won't get it much fresher, so go inside and buy some. It's best eaten within hours after it's made. But if you're in Paestum, visit the temples first. They are astonishing.

You can can get good mozzarella in Rome too. We found some great mozzarella at Obicà, a "mozzarella bar" in the Campo dei Fiori. They've got two locations in Rome, plus a handful of other locations around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Dubai and London. This was what I ate for lunch at Campo dei Fiori location and the mozzarella and everything else were perfect. (See, I got the grilled veggies again. Shouldn't I be losing weight by now?)

Their salumi, burrata and flatbread are really worth seeking out too.
There's been an Obicà mozzarella bar in New York City for a while now, in a building atrium on Madison Ave., but it has a very limited menu. Last week, a new Obicà opened in the Flatiron district (They recently changed the spelling from Obikà because some people thought it was a Japanese firm.) It's got a sexy, sleek look to it and the menu is much larger than the uptown eatery. On our way to dinner at another place downtown, we stopped in to see how the mozzarella stacked up against the version we had at Obicà's Rome location. They import it twice a week from Italy, but it's not the same as eating it within hours of being made.
The verdict is that it wasn't exactly as transcendent as what we ate in the Campo dei Fiori, but it was delicious nonetheless. And the bellinis and aperol spritz were great too. I'd go back in a heartbeat to sample the fuller menu next time. 
At home with our unbeatable Jersey tomatoes, I'd say mozzarella eaten with these heirloom beauties picked from my backyard garden also has to be one of my favorite lunches.
Mozzarella is commonly used in so many cooked foods too, but for some reason, I am reluctant to cook burrata, since it's so ludicrously delectable in its raw state. But once I tried this burrata in guazzetto at Le Virtù in Philadelphia, I changed my mind. Spread this luscious melted burrata on toasted bread, and you're on another planet.

So I tried to duplicate it at home - easy as can be. It's hardly worth printing out a recipe, but I'm giving you one just in case. Cut some burrata and place it in an ovenproof bowl, along with some roasted cherry tomatoes, olives and some seasonings. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes and ecco -- a drool-worthy appetizer to serve with that prosecco.
Burrata in Guazzetto
printable recipe here

1 ball of burrata cheese
olives (green or black)
olive oil
roasted cherry tomatoes (or regular tomatoes)
Take one ball of burrata and cut into pieces in an ovenproof dish (right in the dish so you don't lose any of that milk). Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over it, then add the tomatoes, a handful of olives and some dried basil (or fresh if it's summer.) Place in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until everything is melted.
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Mila said...

E' stupendo trovare piatti italiani in un blog americano. Grazie per aver mostrato alcune nostre bellezze!!!
Buona giornata

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love burrata! This cheese has such a wonderful taste and texture.

Great food and places.



Stacey Snacks said...

I love being an armchair traveler to Italy...thank you for taking me to Puglia this a.m.

Your heirlooms are beautiful, and you know how I feel about burrata and bufala mozzarella.....I eat it everyday......I am making Henry's Caprese sandwich for lunch, as I type!


Proud Italian Cook said...

Thank you Linda, I've always wanted to visit Puglia, I love the way those white houses look. The first time I tasted buratta I was smitten, I can only imagine how good it tasted there! I now can't wait to melt it with tomatoes and smear it all over some crusty bread, omg!

Chiara Giglio said...

che meravigliose foto di "ricchezze italiane" ! La Puglia è una regione splendida e sono contenta che i tuoi lettori l'apprezzino tanto sia per il suo cibo che per i suoi patrimoni artistici, la conosco un pò ma avrei voglia di ritornare! Un abbraccio

janiep said...

We are off to Puglia int he fall and I can't wait! Thank you for the scoop on burrata. I love the idea of heating it up.

Helen said...

Learned a lot here, L. No idea we could "cook" burrata. Excellent travel piece.

AdriBarr said...

Ciao amica,

What wonderful photographs. Again you have tempted me with your luscious food, and the Armchair Traveler in me says "Grazie!" Isn't burrata just wonderful? Somehow I had a difficult time with the consistency the first few times I ate it. I am SUCH a picky and unadventurous eater; you would not believe it. Now, however, I am a complete convert. Roasted tomatoes are just the perfect accompaniment to what I can only describe as the sexiest cheese in the universe. And as for roasted tomatoes, the dry heat of the oven brings out the best in tomatoes, caramelizing the natural sugars and enhancing the flavor. Our kitchen has been roasted tomato heaven this summer. We've enjoyed them on ricotta topped crostini, tossed with herbs and pasta - you name it. I have even roasted them with sugar and set them atop vanilla gelato. Believe it. It is magic.

I so enjoy your foodie travel posts. Keep them coming! Un bacione a te.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I would have felt the same way. Eat in Italy - Diet at Home! I've only had burrata a couple of times and it is so delicious. I wish my garden tomatoes were as ripe to eat as yours. It's been a cool summer so far! Loved seeing all of your beautiful travel photos. What a gorgeous place and loved where you stayed.

sississima said...

La Puglia è una regione meravigliosa, anche dal punto di vista dei prodotti tipici, olio extravergine di oliva ma non solo...anche la burrata che io adoro! Un abbraccio SILVIA

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

More mouthwatering meals in a magical setting--I don';t know how you are able to come home form Puglia every year! One of our favorite restaurants in Manhattan is called "I Trulli" as the owner is from this town.

Roz Corieri Paige said...

My son in Chicago has access to so many high quality Italian food imports (Eataly and other small mom-and-pop neighborhood markets) . . . and he told me about burrata this winter. I've looked and looked for it in SC and this week when in Whole Foods, I asked for it and of course it was sold out. Now when I do get my hands on some, I'm making that wonderful dip as well as a good tomato salad with it. Wish me luck!