Elegance, defined

Imagine a crisp breeze blowing through marshmallow clouds, and you’d be pretty close to tasting this salad. Shavings of endive, celery, and fennel are lightly dressed with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper, and then topped with luxurious burrata cheese. It’s that simple. And it’s quite possibly one of the most elegant salads I’ve ever made. The crisp texture and fresh flavors of the shaved vegetables playing with the with the succulent burrata, it’s just more than words can describe. Maybe I should just let it speak for itself.

Shaved vegetable salad with burrata cheese

Is it talking to you yet? If you’ve never had burrata, just think of the creamiest, ooziest fresh mozzarella you’ve ever tasted, and multiply its deliciousness by, oh, about a zillion. Russ Parsons has said that burrata is to mozzarella as foie gras is to chicken liver, and I think that’s a fair statement. Even better, no poultry loses its liver for our pleasure.

Burrata is made by stuffing a thin pouch of fresh mozzarella with mozzarella curds mixed with cream, and then tying it all up. The result is the most silken, sensuous thing to cross my plate in ages. Burrata has an extremely short shelf life, less than five days or so, but you should be able to find it at any quality cheese shop or Italian market. Here in southern California, we’re lucky enough to have a local producer, the Gioia Cheese Co. in El Monte, CA. And lucky me, my local cheese shop, the Aniata Cheese Co., gets delivery from them twice a week. Burrata is definitely worth hunting down, but if you can’t find it, good-quality fresh mozzarella can be substituted.

Burrata cheese with shaved vegetable salad
From Bon Apetit, via Epicurious

This salad is best prepared immediately before serving. Shave the fennel and the celery first, since the endive turns brown very quickly. If you must make this ahead, dress the shaved vegetables with the lemon juice. They will hold this way for ten or fifteen minutes, but beyond that, they’ll start to break down.

2 heads of Belgian endive
2 celery stalks plus 1 cup pale green and yellow inner celery leaves (from about 1 large bunch)
1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed
4 tablespoons Tuscan-style extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 4-ounce rounds burrata cheese, or substitute fresh mozzarella
Freshly ground black pepper

Using mandolin or V-slicer or large sharp knife, very thinly slice endive, celery stalks, and fennel bulb crosswise. Combine sliced vegetables and celery leaves in medium bowl. Add 3 tablespoons oil and lemon juice and toss to coat. Season salad with salt and ground black pepper.

Cut each burrata cheese round into 6 wedges or pieces. Divide salad among plates. Top each with 3 cheese wedges. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over cheese; sprinkle with ground black pepper.

Serves 4, as a first course.


One Comment

  1. Posted August 16, 2007 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Maia, this sounds STUNNING. And I love what Russ Parsons said about burrata – so true!

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