Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers

We’re obsessing over peeled tomatoes.  Jody has even made a convert of me, Mr. No-Fuss-No-Muss.  Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers might well have begun Peeled Tomato…  By the end of the summer you’ll either be slipping tomatoes out of their skins quicker than a fast-change artist in a costume shop. . . or you’ll be reading another food blog that doesn’t ask so much of you.  But if you do, you’ll miss the supple sensation that is a tomato without its skin, as well as a remarkable esthetic experience.  I, for one, had no idea how ordinary tomatoes metamorphosed into the Betty Grables of the garden without their skins.   They’re gorgeous.

And nothing makes it worth the effort – trifling as it is – of removing a few tomato skins than pairing the tomatoes with burrata, the really hot cousin of bufala mozzarella.  Burrata registers in consumer awareness, I think, about where bufala mozzarella did twenty years ago.  That is, you needn’t be Italian or a card-carrying member of the culinary über-cognoscenti to have heard of it, but it hasn’t quite hit the dairy aisle of the local Giant either.  A brief recap.  Bufala mozzarella is an unaged cheese (“fresh,” get it?) made from the milk of the Mediterranean water buffalo.  The cheese-making process, known in Italian as “pasta filata,” involves curdling water buffalo milk and then transferring the new curds into a warm bath of salt water or whey.  The curds are quite elastic and after repeated stretching they’re formed into balls.  As the balls cool, the exterior portion forms a delicate skin.  Ideally, fresh mozzarella should be eaten within a few hours of its making.  Milky and mild, with a few acidic notes, the flavor would seem to make fresh mozzarella an ideal candidate for the world’s most most boring cheese, yet the opposite is true.  Well made fresh mozzarella is addictive.  I spent a week in Puglia last year eating fresh mozzarella or burrata at least twice a day and never tired of them.  In fact, on returning to the US I found I’d brought a burrata-shaped monkey on my back.

Okay, so let’s guild the lily of fresh mozzarella.  There are inevitably shreds or bits of curd that never join their cousins in the whey vat to form curds large enough to attract the cheesemaker’s fingers for stretching, or that break away in the stretching.  Burrata evolved as a way of saving these bits.  The cheesemaker stretches the curds, but instead of forming them into a ball (or animals or bells, etc.), he shapes them into a pouch.  The pouch is then filled with the curd bits that might otherwise have been lost and the contents are topped off with cream–oh yes–then the neck of the pouch is tied or sealed.  It really does taste as luscious as it sounds.  That’s one approach.  Others fill the pouch with butter (“burrata” means “buttered”) or mascarpone.  Although tasting burrata on its home turf is a special privilege, it is now made in this country, usually with cow’s milk.   We’re fortunate in Boston to have a couple of great local sources for burrata–Fiore di Nonno and House of Mozzarella*, where mozzarella and burrata are made by hand.  Now you understand why it’s worth helping those tomatoes slip into something a little more comfortable.  Enjoy.  Ken

*Currently redoing their website, but you can read about them in Edible Boston.

Tomato and Burrata Salad-3

Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers

Makes 6 antipasto servings

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pounds summer tomatoes, use a variety for flavor, texture, shape and color
  • ½ cup small pitted black olives, Gaeta, Tajia, Nicoise
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • ½ cup torn basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons rich vinegar, cabernet or balsamic
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound buratta or soft mozzarella, you should have 2 pieces
  • 1 cup arugula leaves

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Wash the tomatoes.  For any cherry sized tomatoes, remove the stem and cut in half.  If they are really tiny, just remove the stem.  For the larger tomatoes, use a sharp knife to make a cross through the skin at the bottom of the tomatoes.
  3. Set up a bowl of ice water.
  4. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water, count to 10, and then remove from the water with a slotted spoon or a sieve and immediately plunge into the ice water.  They should cool quickly.  Slip off the skins.
  5. Remove the cores and then cut the tomatoes any way you want.  They can be slices, wedges, or chunks, depending on your preference and the size of the tomato.  Put all the tomatoes into a large bowl.  Add olives, capers, basil, vinegar and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss gently.
  6. Cut each burrata into 3 pieces.  Arrange a piece on each of 6 plates.
  7. Distribute the tomatoes around the cheese.  Sprinkle with arugula.

Tomato and Burrata Salad-4

Tomato and Burrata Salad-7

Tomato and Burrata Salad-10

Tomato and Burrata Salad-11

Tomato and Burrata Salad-14

Jody Notes:

All of the different tomatoes you see in these pics came from Allandale Farm.  They’re tomato masters.  I feel like it’s incumbent on me to eat as many local tomatoes as I can for as long as they’re around.  The last time I made this salad we had quite a bit left over (and no remaining burrata).  By the next day, a pool of fresh tomato juice and vinaigrette mingled in the bottom of the bowl.  I added a few  slices of stale bread, let them soak for a bit, then pureed the whole thing and let it chill overnight.  It made an awesome gazpacho.  We took it on an early morning boat ride for breakfast.

P.S. Don’t forget to remove any unpitted olives from leftover salad before pureeing. 

Come on–add your two-cents to the conversation–leave a comment!

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72 thoughts

  1. The Betty Grables of the garden. Yes, please. I’ve certainly removed tomato skins for other recipes, but usually those were for sauces, so I’ve not tried peeled tomatoes as a salad feature. Beautiful!

    • One thing I that surprised me about eating burrata in its homeland was its size. The usual size for them in the US is about the equivalent of a peach or a typical aged mozzarella. In Puglia they’re frequently the size of a grapefruit–or even a football–quivering masses of unctuousness that spread out over a platter once they’ve been cut. Great stuff. Happy you enjoyed the pics. Ken

    • You know, I’ve since heard that comment a lot, one of those things that people with a “proper” upbringing in the kitchen used to do, like buttering bread before adding mayo, if the sandwich was going to be taken on a picnic. Maybe a generational thing. Ken

      • In our book, we have a tomato salad that dates from Jody’s childhood in England–and a summer visit to France–where they ate peeled tomato salads with mustard vinaigrette and curly parsley for a week. Makes sense. By the way, there’s a lot of moaning going on among the cooking classes in France that young people aren’t learning the skills of their parents. Ken

  2. Fantastic looking salad, Ken, and one to be very well-received when served. Centered by burrata, who could resist this colorful beauty? Great idea. too, of peeling the tomatoes. I’m doubt it’s not necessary but it’s the little touches that elevate ordinary dishes. I bet it’s not lost on your dinner guests.

    • You’re absolutely right, John, about the little touches, and it’s what defines the gulf between my own instincts and those of my wife. She puts fresh herbs in EVERYTHING–I always forget, or am in too much of a rush–and it makes all the difference in the world. Ken

    • People rarely miss the skins of tomatoes or peaches, but most people don’t make the effort. (There is the nutritional factor to consider, if you’re concerned about that.) I’ve never had much luck peeling without a brief blanch first–I inevitably lose too much tomato flesh, but you may be a better brain surgeon (or have sharper scalpels) than I am. :-) Ken

  3. Your salad sound absolutely delicious – I hope I’ll have the patience for the peeled tomato experience… I’ve had burrata for the first time in Italy last month, and I already feel like an addict, there’s nothing like it.

  4. Ahhh, quand le salive suate sur le bouche! Les tomates, les photos; c’est le vie maintenant. Thanks for the masterful je ne sais quoi that you both bring to the food world around here.

    • Hi, John–Thanks for the kind words, and the wonderful tomatoes you folks grow. They really are spectacular. When Jody came home with several flats (one is the header photo) she apologetically lugged them into the kitchen and said, “I guess I got carried away.” Now it’s a week later and we have hardly any left. I think I could probably skin tomatoes in the dark at this point. We will soon be back for more. Ken

  5. Wow Ken. That first picture is a total knock out. Hearty congratulations on that one. I just started peeling tomatoes for a recipe earlier this week and have a few times since. So easy. Wonder why I was apprehensive. I had to laugh at myself! Be well.

  6. God is indeed in the details – I love the description of burrata and how you transform something quite ‘quotidien’ into something special though your careful approach. Hadn’t thought to shrug off the tomato skins but will do now. Sophie

    • Burrata IS special. Shrugging off the skins itself becomes the quotidien practice, although I find myself leaving them on if I’m going to use them for sandwiches (the skin on a slice of tomato helps prevent it from squishing out ). Ken

  7. I had burrata last weekend, we bought it at the Barnstable Village farmers market. There is a store in I think West Barnstable and I believe they made it there, or maybe they just make their pasta there and got the burrata from elsewhere. It was definitely delicious and I can’t wait to try the skinned tomatoes!

    • Hi, Jen–You know, someone else told me that burrata was available there, but somehow when I made a circuit around 9:30 I didn’t see anything to do with pasta or cheese. I did manage to snag some good Greek olive oil however. I’m going to check out the store next visit. Ken

  8. Ok…I am now a convert for peeling tomatoes…I started with some big local tomatoes thinking I wouldn’t bother with the smaller ones but it’s so easy I did them all..the salad was awesome (like the photos). Thanks for a great post and memories of Puglia.

    • It was great, wasn’t it? I’m definitely going back someday, if only to eat in that grotto restaurant in Polignano à Mare. As for peeling tomatoes, I’m glad you’ve become a convert–I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice in Provence next week. :-) Ken

    • Thanks for the praise, Marlene. Unfortunately, I don’t have the power to change the email address for your subscription (sorry, it’s a measure to protect unwanted bloggers from spamming you to death). You have to resubscribe with a new email address. Please stay with us. Ken

  9. Gosh this looks so good! It is indeed summer on a plate, my favorite kind of food! Gorgeous pictures too! Very happy to have found your blog, great recipes here!

  10. My mother does not like tomato skin so I don’t think she ever served tomatoes w/o peeling them. I’m not crazy about tomatoes for the very reason that if you do not peel them they often taste too young or sour to me unless they are very very ripe to begin with. The one recipe I use to marinate mini-tomatoes calls for them to be peeled. I like your tomatoes. They look sweet. :D

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