At the beginning of the summer, the thought that one day I might be sick of salads was a laughable concept. Fresh, cold and crunchy, salads was everything the weather was not as here, the south of France has been balancing on the cusp of 40C for more days than I care to remember, and Gaylord and I have lapped up bowls upon bowls of salad like panting dogs at a water bowl. These salads were vibrantly colourful, full of virtuous promise, served for both lunch and dinner. As I write this, I finally twig why I’m now officially sick of them. Too much of a good thing. After visiting Mexico (so many tacos) and missing vegetables – particularly broccoli – this is a feat I never thought could happen. But then I put a burrata in a salad and realised that I had been missing an essential ingredient.
Care for a story?
Once upon a time I worked as a chef (want some behind the scenes kitchen goss? Read about my chef life here.) This career path only concluded two and a half years ago as I suppose Covid is as good an excuse as any to pack in a job you can just about tolerate but if one more customer places an order I swear to God…
But back to burrata. During those bygone days of chef pants, crocks and bandanas which always smelt of grease no matter how much I valiantly washed them, my fellow chefs and I rotated the responsibility of creating the weekly special. I adored this – many keen cooks approach cheffing for the chance of creativity in a professional kitchen and the bad news is that routine is the name of the game for a commis or chef de partie. You just have to persevere through that repetitive mise-en-place, proving yourself (with as few meltdowns as possible) until creativity and menu ideas are within your grasp. This Manchester café however was one of those lovely places which respected equal opportunity – we all had a go at the specials. Long tangent over – one of my specials was burrata! (we knew this was going somewhere). I smoked each burrata with hay (yes, I really did, and I had to buy the hay from a pet shop) and served it with fennel and griddled artichoke hearts.
Just like my special, burrata screams ‘fussy’. But, what if I told you all you need is a courgette, a sprinkling of nuts, good extra virgin olive oil and a burrata, and you have the only salad you’ll want to eat for the rest of the summer?
What is burrata cheese?
Burrata is a rich, fresh Italian cheese of loose stringy curds which are all held together in a sack of mozzarella. In Italy, burrata is often served on the day it’s made so the real sweet flavour can be fully appreciated. Sadly, all exports are slightly diluted or soured and will never amount to the freshest burrata served in Italy, a quivering orb reminiscent of a crystal ball adorning platters of ripe tomatoes and strewn basil. The fortunes of those who eat it are undoubtably the better for it.
When you cut into a burrata it’s like the parting of the Red Sea before the flood. Slowly the creamy insides cascade out, a river of milky fresh cheese which you can scoop up with, in this recipe’s case, a mouthful of salted nuts and lemony courgette ribbons.
Paired with light, fresh flavours of citrus and raw courgette, the burrata doesn’t quite shine in a glittering metaphor; it’s more regally resplendent in its velvety curds, only needing a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and those crunchy pistachios and pine nuts.
So, how to make this burrata salad fit for a creative chef? Take a courgette and peel it all the way around, right down to the watery seedy centre. Massage those ribbons in lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt and basil. Then toast your nuts and soak them in olive oil. Squeeze all the excess water from the courgette and plate artfully like a beach babe’s tousled hair. Top with the burrata. Grind black pepper over it all and add a pinch of chilli flakes. Break open the burrata (and film it, it’s the epitome of food porn) then sprinkle with the nuts. Add more basil and serve.
A burrata salad for a hot summer’s day. And no one, least of all me, will be complaining.
Burrata salad with courgette, basil, pistachios & pine nuts
- 1 courgette
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra
- 1 lemon or lime both zest and juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A small handful of freshly torn basil
- 2 tbsp pine nuts
- 1 tbsp pistachios
- 1 burrata
- Black pepper and chilli flakes
- First of all, take the burrata out of the fridge and its packaging 30 minutes before serving.
- Take your courgette and peel it into ribbons with a peeler. Go all around the courgette until you have the seedy middle left which you can throw away. Put all the ribbons in a large bowl, sprinkle with the zest and juice of half your lemon or lime, the 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and the basil. Toss altogether and set aside.
- Toast the pine nuts and pistachios until a light gold colour. If your pistachios are already 'grilled' no need to toast them. Tip them into a bowl and cover with more extra virgin olive oil and add a pinch of salt.
- Squeeze the excess water out of the courgette and plate in a serving bowl like the ruffles of a lady's petticoat. Top with your burrata and grind over some black pepper and add a sprinkle of chilli flakes.
- Now, the best part – cut open the burrata and scoop out all the milky curds. Layer it all over the courgette, top with the nuts and oil, and add more basil and a little extra seasoning. Serve.