It seems like the current darling of the cheese world is fresh burrata. Born in the 20th century and although a newcomer, or at least among world cheese, it originated in the region of Puglia as a way to use up the leftover scraps of mozzarella. I’ve always thought the foods of the poor, cucina povera, to be the tastiest of all!
Burrata is made of mozzarella that has been stretched into a very thin sheath then cupped into a hollow pouch and filled with stracciatella: soft stringy bits of left over mozzarella strands and fresh cream. The pouch is then pinched at the top to enclose the filling. In Puglia, the burrata is wrapped in a fresh asphodel leaf (lily family) since the cheese and the leaf last about the same time, three or four days, fresh leaves are a sign of a fresh cheese, while dried out leaves indicate that the cheese is past its prime. Unfortunately, the imported burrata is often wrapped in a plastic leaf giving us no indication of its freshness.
Burrata has a mildly sweet cream flavor so know your vendor and buy and enjoy it within a day or two of it’s being made. It should be very soft and yielding, bursting with what looks like oozing, creamy ricotta when opened. If it’s chewy and rubbery, it’s too old. Lucky for us some very good burrata is now being made in the States. Maplebrook Fine Cheese in Bennington, VT has a cheese maker from Puglia using his old-world skills to locally produce this authentic Italian delicacy. BelGioioso Cheese Company in Wisconsin also makes a very good burrata that can be found in some supermarkets.
Burrata is at its best with a drizzle of fresh olive oil on top and some crusty bread on the side, or on salad greens with nothing more than a good olive oil sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Or eat it on garden fresh tomatoes, pasta or pizza; serve with grilled peppers, onions, zucchini and eggplant; enjoy it as a dessert with honey and peaches/strawberries. Try not to drizzle it with balsamic vinegar or any vinegar, as the acidity will mask the wonderfully fresh dairy flavor.
Find burrata in Boston’s North End at:
The Cheese Shop, 20 Fleet St.
Monica’s Mercato, 130 Salem St.