Lentils with Burrata and Basil Oil

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During the four years our daughter lived in London, we visited often, using London as a springboard to explore nearby countries, like Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. We also visited areas in England as well, such as the Cotswolds, the Lake District, the Isle of Wight, and Cornwall.

On a couple of these trips, we brought along not only our travel-loving daughter, but also a good friend of hers – another American living in London. This young lady was such a delight – always happy and appreciative. Plus she had really good taste in food, so she fit in with us all!

As a thank you for these vacations, she gifted me the book Polpo – a Venetian Cookbook, by Russell Norman, published in 2012.

The book is fabulous – great stories, and great recipes from a lover of Venice, who owns and runs the restaurant Polpo, in London.

I learned something about burrata from the book. By the author: “Burrata is often confused with mozzarella but they are not the same. Burrata is made in Puglia with milk from Razza Podolica cows (not buffalo), and with added cream, so it is softer and more moist than mozzarella. Burrata’s creamy sweet consistency is the perfect foil to an array of ingredients. This recipe combines it with lentils – a heavenly marriage. Make sure your burrata is of the finest quality and at room temperature.”

And speaking of that, for the first time ever, my cheese shipment from IGourmet was a melted disaster. No, it didn’t help that the temperatures were in the 90’s in early September, but what was supposed to be overnight shipping, became 3 days. The burrata was packaged two to a plastic tub, and two out of three tubs I’d ordered leaked completely. They all had basically “cooked” in the hot box and were hard as rocks.

Of course IGourmet’s customer service was apologetic and I was credited, but it was all around a sad day. I proceeded with this recipe, because it’s not the author’s fault that I received cooked, separated, and curdled burrata in the mail. The recipe will be fabulous with good burrata.

Lentils  with  Burrata  and  Basil  Oil

Leaves from a bunch of basil
Flaky sea salt
Black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
400 g Puy lentils
2 large carrots, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
4 tablespoons mustard dressing
6 burrata balls

First make the basil oil by placing most of the basil leaves in a food processor, reserving a few of the smaller prettier ones for decorating at the end. Add a little salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to make a thin sauce. Whizz for a few seconds and then set aside.

Put the lentils in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover them by about 7 cm. (I used chicken broth.) Don’t add salt at this state as this will toughen the lentils. Bring to a boil and cook for about 45 minutes. Keep checking them – they need to still hold a small bite. when they are done, drain, refresh in cold water, drain again, and set aside.

Now, in a large heavy-based pan sweat the vegetables in a few good glugs of olive oil with the thyme leaves, a large pinch of salt, and a twist of ground black pepper. When the vegetables are softened and translucent, add the cooked lentils and a splash of water or broth to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Mustard Dressing
Any basic French vinaigrette will substitute

To finish the dish, add 4 tablespoons of the mustard dressing to the lentils, check the seasoning, and spoon onto a large warm plate. (Because my husband hates vinegar, I used a good garlic-infused oil in the lentils.)

Then tear open your burrata and place on top of the warm lentils.

The heat from the lentils will melt the burrata making it even more creamy and soft.

Drizzle some basil oil over the top and scatter with the reserved basil leaves.

Stracciatella

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My husband and I first experienced heavenly stracciatella at the restaurant Manzo, which is located in Eataly, New York City. It was served to us for lunch simply drizzled with olive oil, alongside grilled bread. We also ordered prosciutto for our antipasti.

Stracciatella, we learned, is the inside of buratta. It’s the creamy goodness that spills out when you cut into the ball of buratta. If you love buratta, and haven’t yet experienced stracciatella, just wait. You will think you’ve gone to heaven.

After the wonderful lunch at Manzo, I found stracciatella in Eataly, but didn’t buy it because we were a few days from flying home.

When I got home and searched for stracciatella, I had some trouble. Turns out, according to Wikipedia, “Stracciatella is a term used for three different types of Italian food.”

1.Stracciatella (soup), an egg drop soup popular in central Italy
2.Stracciatella (ice cream), a gelato variety with chocolate flakes, inspired by the soup
3.Stracciatella di bufala, a variety of soft Italian buffalo cheese from the Apulia region

I ordered stracciatella from Murray’s cheese recently, since I can’t get it locally, and I’m so glad I did. But how did I want to serve it?

I thought of the typical ways buratta is served, like with salads, on pasta, or over grilled vegetables. But I wanted to experience it again just like we had a few years before, simply with grilled bread.

What I purchased for the cheese is a Tuscan loaf. White and plain, and perfect for grilling.

Stracciatella is so soft it’s pourable.

I grilled bread and got together a few goodies to highlight the stracciatella.

And I drizzled the stracciatella with good olive oil, just like at Manzo, except that my left handed pour job sucked.

I included dried apricots, walnuts, and Prosciutto on the antipasti platter along with the grilled bread.

There is an experiration date on stracciatella so pay attention to that when you purchase it.

It was as good as I remembered it. Even my husband joined in on the fun!

The cheese is a little messy because it’s so soft. We didn’t care! I’m just so glad I know where I can find this delicacy!

Eataly, NYC

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One of the goals during my recent New York City trip was to visit Eataly. I’ve been intrigued by the whole Eataly concept since it was built. It claims to be the largest Italian market place in the world, and at 50,000 square feet, I believe it must be.

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The famous names behind Eataly include Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and her son Joe Bastianich. (I’m not sure about Mario any longer…)

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Eataly sells everything Italian. There is a bakery, a cheese shop, a fish department, an area for charcuterie, a pasta department, and so forth. Intermingled among the shops are various restaurants – some set up for full dining, others cafés, take-out stops, and areas for tastings.

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Oh, and a fresh pasta shop of course.

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The toughest apart about Eataly for us was figuring out how to get in to Eataly. We had the right address, but never found an obvious entrance. So we walked through a shop that sells everything Nutella – the Nutella Bar.

So yes, I had to have a Nutella crepe and an espresso. It was still morning, after all!

Eventually we discovered a customer information booth of sorts, and were handed a map, which helped immensely. We walked around, for the sole purpose of picking up some items I can’t get where I live, but my husband suggested I get them online. That’s how much he dislikes shopping of any kind.

I was especially intrigued by this pasta, which I can only describe as embossed pendants. I will be buying these online!

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Eventually we managed to get hungry and chose Manzo for lunch.

We began with toasted bread, prosciutto and stracciatella. Stracciatella, if you’re not aware, (I wasn’t), is the inside of burrata. So it was like sweet, lumpy cream drizzled with a little olive oil. And their prosciutto was the meatiest, smokiest prosciutto we’ve ever experienced. At that point we should have asked for the bill.

But no, we both do love to eat, and so far we were definitely excited and impressed.

My husband ordered pappardelle with wild boar sauce, and because I’ve never eaten them, I ordered pasta with ramps.

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My pasta was incredible, but because the ramps were blended in a “sauce” that included asparagus, I couldn’t really tell what they were like on their own. Nonetheless, a fabulous dish. And our lunch was made more perfect with wines chosen by our attentive and knowledgeable waitress.

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Overall, Eataly was a wonderful experience, even though I left with no groceries. But you can indeed go to Eataly online and shop. There is also a calendar of events like tastings and classes if you happen to live in NYC or are visiting.

One note – While at Eataly, I had actually planned on eating lunch at Birreria, a glassed-in restaurant on the rooftop of Eataly, but it happened to be closed for renovation. It’s now re-opened and named Sabbia, serving “coastal fare.” I would still like to go there, if nothing else for the views. But I bet the food is top-notch, after our Manzo experience!