What was our world like before burrata? Sad, I think.
There is something so decadent, so indulgent, so dreamy about a good round globe of burrata cheese. For the 17 of you out there that may have not yet had the opportunity to sample this special fresh cheese, just imagine the freshest ball of mozzarella cheese hand formed and tied off, and then injected with pure cream. This cream then imbues all of the inside of that ball to form a creamy, curdy, spreadable texture, which contrasts with the firm outer cheese layer.
Before I tried it for the first time, I’ll admit, I didn’t know what the big deal was. But then I enjoyed my own little cheese ball with foccacia and freshly sliced tomatoes straight from the garden. I can honestly say, there was nothing better imaginable at that moment. And I became hooked.
Plopping one of these babies on a cheese board is a given. Plopping it over freshly roasted tomatoes, sweet red peppers or other veggies takes those veggies to the next level of goodness. Last year I grilled up some peaches, added sliced serrano ham on the side, and gathered them both around the perfect ball of burrata drizzled with a syrupy aged balsamic vinegar. It made for a fabulous appetizer with sliced up baguette.
These days, if I am thinking up an easy first course, or side course for dinner, a simply prepared vegetable, with a great vinaigrette and burrata is often in the running. The burrata itself isn’t an overpowering cheese. It is mild, and pairs perfectly with so many flavours and textures. But the minute you pour a bright lemon and mustard vinaigrette over it, it becomes a joy to eat, a bit of creaminess to join each mouthful of vegetable. And if you choose to drizzle it with that balsamic I mentioned above, it almost becomes dessert, or at least totally appropriate as part of a dessert cheese board.
Today, seeing that we are well into a wonderful, bright, green spring, I knew that I just had to come up with the best Spring vegetable to showcase this creamy delight. So may I present, Braised Leeks. Leeks are all over the place right now. You can get narrow long leeks, thick wide leeks, and everything in between. Leeks have such a sweetness that is released upon roasting, steaming or braising.
I decided to use the braising method. This means that it will be in a shallow wide pan that the leeks will be slowly cooked in. It couldn’t be easier. You’ll take the leeks (about two full ones per person, depending on the size of the leeks. Slice them in half, removing the dark green and but leaving them attached at the white, root end. Then you will slice them in half lengthwise. So that they look like canoes. Quickly rinse under running water to remove any grit from between the layers.
These will be added to garlic infused white wine and chicken or vegetable stock and simmered until tender. This won’t take long at all. In the meantime you’ll prepare my Champagne and Mustard Vinaigrette. Or of course you can have made this in advance. But if this is the case, make sure you remove it from the fridge well in advance to allow the oil to return to room temperature so that it can be shaken up again.
Once the leeks are tender (a knife should slide in with barely any resistance) take a slotted spoon and transfer them to a serving plate or bowl. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette over them all. Now comes the piece de resistance: the burrata. This should also be at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge at the same time that you bring the vinaigrette out. Place the burrata on top of the leeks, and cut into it, exposing the creamy interior. In fact, just before presenting the leeks at the table, using the blade of a knife, gently push down on the burrata, forcing some of that creaminess to erupt out over the leeks! Oh, and also drizzle one final bit of dressing over the burrata as well.
Here are some additions, depending on your palate: fresh dill or chopped parsley are bright and add another layer of flavour. For a bit of kick, sprinkle some hot chilli flakes over everything. And if you want to make a meal of it, why not add some halved medium or soft boiled eggs? Or poached eggs! What a marvellous vegetarian lunch or dinner. Okay, now I’m getting hungry as well!! Make sure you’ve got a baguette or some crusty bread to help soak up all the juices and to spread some of the cheese on!
This would work equally well using asparagus. This makes for a fantastic appetizer, side dish, or even dinner for two!
Now go one, run out and pick up some burrata. You know you want to!
Braised Leeks with Burrata
Tender, flavourful leeks are drizzled with a bright mustardy vinaigrette and topped with a creamy ball of burrata. A perfect contrast of textures and flavours, and wonderful as an appetizer, side dish, or even a main for two if you add a couple of poached or boiled eggs!
- 6-8 leeks depending on thickness
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine
- 3/4 cup (200 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
- 3-4 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves with the skin on bruised with the side of a knife
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
- Champagne Mustard Vinaigrette see Notes for link
- 1 medium sized ball of fresh burrata
- 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh dill or parsley
Trim the darkest green part off the leeks. If the outer layer or two need it, remove them as well. Don't cut off the root at the white part end.
Cut in half lengthways
Wash the leeks under cold running water, gently opening up to remove any dirt or grit. Place on a plate to drain a touch.
Add the wine and stock to a wide, shallow pan with a lid. Add all the flavour ingredients: thyme through pepper.
Lay out the leeks in one layer into the pan, cover with a lid, and place over a medium heat. Bring it to a gentle simmer and then drop the heat to low.
Simmer for 20 mins, turning them occasionally until very tender – a knife blade should slip in with just the slightest resistance.
Leave to cool until just warm, and then place them onto a cutting board. Trim away the root ends carefully. Move to a serving platter.
Lay them all out in one layer.
Drizzle 1/4 cup of the dressing over the leeks. Let them sit for about 8 minutes, to allow the leeks to soak up the dressing a bit.
Before serving, place the burrata ball over the leeks. Using a very sharp knife, make a cut into it, exposing the creamy interior. Gently push down on it, to release some of the creamy cheese over the leeks.
Drizzle everything with a final 2-3 tbsp of dressing.
Sprinkle with chopped dill or parsley.
Serve with crusty bread to soak up the leek and vinaigrette juices and to spread the burrata on.
Optional: as a dinner for two, why not add two poached eggs. Or soft boiled eggs? A perfect vegetarian dinner!
Champagne and Mustard Vinaigrette recipe here.
Don't worry- it's champagne vinegar, you won't have to purchase a bottle of bubbly!!