food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

I’m not sure why this is, but watching sports makes me hungry. Not playing them –  that somehow kills my appetite (from what I remember) – just spectating.

Back in the days when my Dad used to treat us to a USF Bulls basketball game, I used to save up my appetite for game food. All day long I would say ‘no thanks’ to offers of home-cooked food; give a body swerve to the kitchen; maybe risk a piece of fruit so I wouldn’t pass out. All so I could cram an incinerator-hot hotdog into my mouth. The ketchup would invariably hemorrhage  all down my front and onto my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, but it was worth it. I’m still pretty messy, but maybe a smidge classier.

I have grown up a bit since then. As a veteran food label reader, I can’t remember the last time I had a hot dog. And even if I were going to have something special later on I am not daft enough to starve myself until said occasion arrived: that’s a perfect recipe for making a piggy fool of oneself, from the appetisers onwards.

But I still find my stomach  growling when watching taller, stronger more talented people than I toughing it out on a field, track or court. Must be some kind of perverse ‘well if I’m not good enough to play X then I will just go to hell in a handcart with this bowl of Y.’ The ‘Y’ probably being something salty and crunchy.

And so – you know where I’m going with this, don’t you? – the Olympics. From the bonkers but brilliant (if you are British) opening ceremony, to so far seeing defending gold medallist Rebecca Adlington scrape into the  400m swimming freestyle final (hubby not here to reprimand me on my tortured cuticles), my ghrelin has been working overtime. If I’m not careful by the end of the next 17 days I may have to borrow Mr A’s trousers.

But nowadays instead of MRM frankfurters (don’t click if you are squeamish) I will be preparing something like this salad. I know that sounds a bit priggish: a salad? But hear me out before you mock. This salad has cheese. And not just any cheese, Italian-made burrata cheese. For those of you acquainted with the heavenly parcel known as burrata go ahead and skip to the recipe. The rest of you, a few cheesy facts to whet your appetite. But a little hint: burrata means ‘buttered’ in Italian. 

On first glance burrata looks like mozzarella. A nice plump mozzarella, but a mozzarella. Yawn. And it is made from a pear-shaped pouch of stretched mozzarella, so we are on the right track. But what sets this apart, and makes many of us liquid-eyed with longing, is what’s inside: thick fresh cream and mozzarella curds – ‘stracciatella’. More a culinary bomb than cheese, attempting a neat slice is as impossible as turning down George Clooney/Eva Mendes (delete as appropriate). With the first incision out pours the most luscious, soft and creamy curds. Amazingly the result is not at all cloying.

Even as someone who doesn’t normally succumb to cream’s charm I must say that the layered taste of this cheese – sweet from the cream, pleasant acidic tang from the stracciatella and yet more complexity and contrasting texture from the mozzarella skin – is pretty amazing. Not everyday food. Not even every week food. Certainly not budget food. But what a spectacular exclamation to punctuate a pasta dish, salad plate or even paired with best tomatoes, torn basil leaves and tangy fresh bread. Come winter I will split an unctous, ghost-pale burrata over roasted and spiced uchiri kuri or butternut squash. I can hardly wait. Burrata is simply one of the finest fresh cheeses you can eat.

If you you are lucky you may find freshly-made burrata, wrapped in protective asfodelo leaves, in which case eat it right away as it only keeps a couple of days in the fridge. Burrata in puffy plastic pouches or in a lidded container keeps a little longer, but not much. Natoora and Waitrose are reliable UK stockists, but you may find it at independent delis and at farmers’ markets. Because of the airmiles and timing, Italian-made burrata is difficult to find outside of Europe, but I have read that there are a few US-based makers of this cheese. An article from the Nibble gives some clues, as well as a potted history of burrata. If you can’t easily track it down -I know I am lucky with my handy Waitrose store – please use a ball of best fresh mozzarella (NOT the block stuff – a different beast altogether). Or, for the more motivated among you, perhaps make your own using this recipe from Sunday Suppers. But, if you ever get to Italy and see it on a menu…well, you don’t need me to tell you what to do 😀

And that leads me on to say that I will be heading to Lucca, in Tuscany,  for a short break with my family. My GP has very wisely advised  that I get away from Scotland’s recovery-hindering cool, damp air and head somewhere warm and dry. Again. Now that’s a prescription I am looking forward to filling. See you next week!


Roasted (Nearly) Nicoise Salad with Burrata and Parsley Pesto

Last Year: A Non-Purist’s Gazpacho – this post also refers to an arts festival that is in fact going on this week (in 2012) too. Highly recommended if you are anywhere near by.
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Tim Kay’s ‘My World’ – from the Jamie at Home series. An aural aide memoire to eat at the new Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Edinburgh (like I need reminding).
A French and Italian mash-up, by way of Great Britain. I’ve used seasonal English runner beans, parsley and baby plum tomatoes, and Scottish ‘Apache’ potatoes, but you use whatever is seasonal and tasty in your neck of the woods. Eating locally grown, in-season food is a wonderful way to not only support your local economy but it also tends to be more nutritious. A win-win situation.
And don’t get me started on the unashamedly voluptuous burrata…
300g new potatoes/waxy potatoes, par-cooked until the point of a knife just goes in – about 8 minutes OR use leftover cooked potatoes
150g runner beans or other green bean, topped, tailed (destringed if needed) and sliced
1 red onion, peeled, halved and cut into chunky-ish pieces
150g cherry/grape tomatoes
10 dry-cure black olives, flesh pinched from the stones
Olive oil
8 Peppadew pepper halves (sweet or spicy, as your choice) OR 1 large roasted pepper, diced and bathed in 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar, or vinegar with a touch of honey added
1 ball of milky mozzarella or burrata (I used the latter) – see above for stockist info
A few tablespoons of parsley pesto (see below), basil pesto, or any other pesto you like (here’s my pumpkin seed one)
Extra herbs that ‘match’ your pesto – I used flat leaf parsley
Parsley Pesto
30g flat leaf parsley, 1 small clove garlic (minced), 1 tsp capers in vinegar, 10 walnut halves, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. Blend in a small food processor bowl or in a pestle and mortar, adding enough oil to make a thickish paste. Adjust to your taste –maybe more acid (vinegar or lemon) or more oil. Pour into a clean jar and use within one week, or freeze.
For the salad recipe, toss the par-cooked potatoes in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and roast in a 200C/400F oven for 10 minutes. While these roast, oil the tomatoes and pop on another baking tray; add a little oil and a good pinch of salt to the chopped onions and mix in the olives before adding to the tray. Put the tray in with the potatoes and roast all for 10 minutes, stirring as needed to stop the onions burning (the salt helps to prevent burning).
While the vegetables are in the oven boil a small pan of water and add the sliced green beans. Simmer for 3-5 minutes depending on the type of bean you are using; my runner’s took four minutes to get al dente. Drain and rinse under cold running water then lay of kitchen paper.

When the veg are finished roasting decant them into a large, shallow bowl, along with the beans, pesto and herbs. Tear in the Peppadews, allowing the juices to dribble in. Now for the extra yummy bit: pinch bite sized, gooey pieces of burrata and dot over the salad; drizzle over a little more pesto slaked with oil and grind on some pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 2 generously.

Leftover ingredients: I will be posting a recipe using Peppadews next time but if you don’t want to wait, they add a colour and taste pop to most any savoury dish – you can even knead them into bread. Or, check out my badly photographed Veracruz Fish with a Twist. As for the pesto, well that’s in the next recipe too. The remaining burrata? Well, I would just tear it over some sliced room temperature tomatoes, and sigh.

roasted nearly nicoise salad with Miss R’s patriotic nails

30 thoughts on “Roasted (Nearly) Nicoise Salad with Burrata and Parsley Pesto

  1. Alexia @ NamasteYoga says:

    while i am not a big fan of dairy and only eat raw goats cheese, i agree with your point that you cant turn out burrata, just as you cant turn down george clooney 🙂 good point there! but fresh burrata is just somethign truly special and part of an italian perfect dinner. great yet simple recipe!

    1. Yeah, I use dairy sparingly, but if you do eat dairy – and don’t mind the temporary fat and calorie blip – burrata it is. Preferably while gazing at George Clooney…Thanks Alexia.

  2. I learn something new every time I read your blog. Whether it’s a health related gem or a new ingredient and today’s blog is no exception because much as I love fresh mozzarella I don’t know about burrata but it sounds beautiful. I shall squeeze in a trip to Waitrose today and try it out so thank you so much for expanding my horizons each week (without expanding my waist as the recipes are so clever!)

    1. Aw *blush* thanks love. In fact the burrata is new to me too. It has been on my radar for awhile as a must-try ingredient, having noticed it on NY and London online menus that I ogle. As soon as I spotted it at Waitrose, in its discreet black tub, I grabbed two in case it was a dream. It was all Miss R and I could do to not gobble the thing up as soon as we lifted it from its milky suspension. So yummy! Perfect for your next cheese ‘fest’ with Master T.

      1. Oh goodness, I’m seduced and I haven’t even bought it yet, mmm, great way to start the week 🙂

  3. So glad I read this because it showed me the way to your pumpkin seed pesto!

    1. Thanks! I know you are vegan so I wasn’t expecting you to stop by, but I’m glad you did. The salad is great of course without the burrata. And the pumpkin seed pesto is the one I make most often – cheaper and more nutritious (loads of zinc) than the pinenut based ones.

  4. Seattle Foodshed says:

    Great photos! And cool cheese!

    1. Thanks – very cool cheese. So cool it should be saved for special occasions.

  5. eastofedencook says:

    What a marvelous salad, seasonal ingredients with loads of flavor! The creamy burrata adds delight to the luscious pesto to dress the salad seductively. A very tempting recipe.

    1. That’s the second time today I’ve seen burrata and seductive/seduced linked. Cheese as aphrodisiac? I will not be responsible for anyone’s actions should they try it!

  6. I am SO jealous of you guys going to Lucca! It has to be one of our favorite vacation spots of all times. Was there in May and attended cooking school. Hope you have a fantastic time! Can’t wait to hear / see all about it.

    Susan and Wade

    1. That’s how I found out about Lucca – a cookery course. I was there on my own about three years ago and joined up with a smashing group of folk for five days of living in a fabulous 17th century villa in the hills outside the city, drinking Prosecco while cooking and being cooked for, and enjoying private tours to local producers. Learned so much and ate terrifically well. I almost booked again for the next month but common sense and a drained budget said otherwise! I plan on taking plenty of pictures to share. I hope they bring back memories.

      1. We go each November for “Thanksgiving” holiday. Always a blast – stay in Lucca and Florence, and day trip to other spots. I have info on the Cooking School over on our blog if you are interested. Very reasonably priced, and you can take just a day class if you want to. Enjoy!!!

      2. Thanks for that. I’ll check it out & hope others perusing these comments do too. What I really fancy now though is a Vietnamese or Malaysian course. Any ideas about that?

  7. Looks delicious and healthy 🙂

    1. Well, if you took out the burrata! But just a smidge of burrata between 3 or 4 keeps this on the angel’s side of healthy. And really kicks up the glamour factor

  8. Faith says:

    I have a feeling we would get along so well if we ever were to meet in person…I’m a messy eater too, and always feel snacky at sporting events (even if I’m just watching them on tv, lol). This salad is truly gorgeous, I’d be happy to sit down with a generous bowl of it for any occasion!

    1. I KNOW we would get on famously – esp if you cooked! I’m the butt of many jokes about my messiness. I blame my terrible eye-hand co-ordination. Messy eating must be a sign of respect somewhere, like burping (which I don’t do, thank goodness).

  9. Ah…Tuscany! I’m quite envious 🙂 Such a lovely salad with all my favorite ingredients. Can’t wait to make this one soon! Have a wonderful mini break with you family 🙂

    1. Yeah, it’s a special place, especially the hills above Lucca where we will be. Too hot there to explore much so we will just concentrate on lounging and eating 🙂 Could be worse!

  10. Urvashi Roe says:

    This is going on the weekend cooking list! LOVVIT!

    1. Thank you Urvashi. I’m not doing ANY cooking this weekend. Looking forward to authentic Italian food in Tuscany

      1. Urvashi Roe says:

        So jealous! have a great time xx

    1. Thank you so very much Lori. And bless your hippy heart for the kindness and introductions. I’ll be sure to check everyone out when I decompress from all this Tuscan loveliness. Sitting in a piazza sipping a Negroni. Bliss.

  11. No fair putting this out there for me to read when I am a half a world away from the closest burrata (and if I’m wrong, and there is such a thing as Malaysian burrata, I’m not sure I want to try it). Think I’ll just go to the MRM frankfurter link and stare at the pictures until my longing is quashed.

    1. Inspired by the above, I tossed some some roasted vegetables and heirloom tomatoes with pesto on Monday, and topped the whole with a little burrata. Lovely meal. Thanks again for sharing.

      1. I am always pleased when people tell me of variations they have done. Mainly so I can try them myself! Roasted veg sounds a great bed for burrata and pesto.

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