August 8, 2011
For those of you who don’t know about it, I’m pleased to introduce you to the pleasures of burrata, a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.
Let me repeat that: mozzarella and cream.
Before you cut into it, burrata looks just like fresh mozzarella. In fact, thanks to the same beginning cheese making process, the the outer shell is fresh mozzarella. Along the way, though, the in-process mozzarella cheese is formed into a pouch and filled with more fresh mozzarella and cream. This divergence in the process distinguishes fresh mozzarella from burrata. Once filled, the pouch is sealed closed and the cheese cooled, giving burrata an elastic but solid outside and very soft and creamy inside. If you get burrata super fresh the inside can even be runny… in a good way.
Burrata offers the best of both fresh mozzarella and fresh ricotta, which is why I chose it for this Farro Zucchini Salad. The soft inside melts into the simple vinaigrette, making it creamy, while the fresh mozzarella outside adds small hunks of delicately salted cheese. Delightful!
Now you’re probably wondering: what’s farro? That one’s not so easy to answer! There seems to be some confusion over farro. Apparently, in Italy, spelt and emmer are both labeled “farro.” Well, they’re all wheat! And that’s what we know about farro, too—it’s a whole grain from a wild species of wheat. If you’re familiar with barely, farro is very similar and is just as delicious and good for you. In fact, it’s even better for you! Farro is relatively low in calories and higher in fiber and protein compared to other whole grains.
Making farro takes a little extra planning since you’ve got to soak it before cooking. Some say that you should soak overnight. I’ve been able to soak farro for as few as 25 minutes. Once soaked, cook farro in water and/or broth—bring it to a boil, then simmer uncovered until tender. Drain and you’re good to go.
Because of the soak time, I like to cook farro when I have some time to spare (as opposed to the night of). It’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for several days or, if you make it way in advance, throw the cooked grain in your freezer for longer term storage. Farro is incredibly versatile, great in hot soups and stews, as well as in cold salads like this one.
Zucchini and tomatoes are so beautiful and plentiful right now, they were the obvious veg of choice for this salad, but you can substitute your fave. Cucumbers, peppers, carrots, corn—any and more will work, just be sure to finely dice larger, crunchier vegetables. You want them to be approximately uniform with the farro. Tomatoes are the exception; a regular rough chop is fine.
Add some basil, a basic vinaigrette, salt, pepper and, of course, burrata, and you’ve got a summer side perfect for potlucks and a companion fit alongside any grilled meat.
Summer Farro Zucchini Salad with Burrata
serves 6-8 as a side
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
5 cups cooked farro, cooled
3 cups finely diced raw zucchini (about 1 large)
2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
25 basil leaves (about 1 large bunch), cut into a chiffonade
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
juice of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
pepper, to taste
1 ball fresh burrata, cut into 1/4″ chunks
1. Combine farro, zucchini, tomatoes and basil in a large bowl.
2. In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over farro salad and toss to coat until the salad is thoroughly dressed. Add more salt to taste, if necessary.
3. Add burrata and toss a few more times. You want to move the salad around enough to mix the creamy burrata with the vinaigrette, but not too much that it completely breaks down. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
*Note: Be sure to blend or pulse this salad into an age appropriate texture before serving to your littlest eaters!