French beans and asparagus salad with burrata
One of the culinary treasures of southern Italy (Puglia) is the burrata: a creamy, perishable cheese that is shipped daily to vendors and restaurants in other parts of the country to be consumed the same day.
Burrata means “buttered” and in the categories of cheeses it is not a mozzarella, nor a mozzarella di bufala, although it is made with buffalo milk. To make burrata cheesemakers fill a thin skin of mozzarella with a mixture of cream and curds and stretch it over the filling into a bundle tied with a knot to contain the filling. When you cut into a piece of burrata the filling spills out soft and creamy and the skin is light and thin, not chewy (chewy means the cheese is not as fresh).
If you don’t have access to burrata you can make this salad with soft mozzarella di buffala or fiore di latte (made with cow’s milk). Mozzarella is made mostly in the Campania region of Italy (also in Puglia and southern Lazio). Artisan cheesemakers use traditional methods to curdle the milk, then drain and boil the curds until they reach a perfect texture. Cheesemakers knead the curds in wooden vats until smooth and elastic and then single portions of cheese are squeezed between thumb and forefinger to create the balls of cheese we buy, submerged in the milky liquid used for the curdling.
Here is a way to serve beautiful spring vegetables with great Italian burrata or fresh mozzarella if you have it. The recipe was inspired by the NYT Cooking recipe for Burrata with fava beans, fennel and celery. I didn’t have burrata and used fiore di latte from our local Italian store, although burrata would have been my first choice.
1 lb asparagus
1/2 lb slender green beans
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon
Salt and pepper
Micro greens and fresh herbs for garnish
Burrata or soft, fresh mozzarella
Cut the asparagus and beans on the diagonal into equal size pieces.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and cook until barely tender. Plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking, then drain.
Repeat the with green beans.
Drizzle the beans with the olive oil and lemon juice.
Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and mix to distribute.
Arrange the vegetables on a plate and place the burrata in the center.
Drizzle the cheese with olive oil and add salt and pepper.
Scatter the micro greens over.