Thursday, March 27, 2008

BURRATA: It's Like Buttah

Hunting down great places to eat is what I do in Rome, but there are times when I need to grab a quick lunch or snack to enjoy on my terrace with the resident gabbiani (sea gulls) who think nothing of perching on the ledge and staring at me like vultures waiting for the remains.

The combination of two items right outside my front door in Campo de' Fiori, a warm slice of thin crust lightly tomato-ed pizza from the famed Forno Campo de' Fiori and a miniature burrata (burratini) from the adjacent latteria (a store that sells primarily dairy products), and those birds were salivating.

Burrata is a cow's milk mozzarella-like cheese from Puglia.  Shaped like a little bag, the treasure cache is its center filled with strings of the curd and leftover cream from the whey.  The Italian word for butter is burro, hence burrata.)

When it's cut into, the center reveals a buttery spread-able ooze that covers my pizza like a warm embrace.  My "invention" is not the classic use of burrata, if there is such a thing.  In Italy, it's most often served  nudo, standing alone and unadorned, or as a filling for ravioli as I had at the justly famous Rome restaurant Agata e Romeo. 

Of course, here in the States burrata begs being substituted for mozzarella in a caprese.  About the only "rule" that's immutable is it must be eaten as quickly as possible after production - to purists that would be within 36 hours.  It is possible to find  burrata outside of Italy.  I recently bought it in eastern Pennsylvania and it was fresh and delectable.  And to me, better than buttah.

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