As sure as summer's heat brings ripe tomatoes, it also sparks a craving for burrata. They go hand in hand, perfect by themselves, utterly profound when combined.
If there is a sure thing in cooking, it would be a platter of ripe tomato wedges surrounding a ball of burrata, that creamy Italian cheese filled with threads of semiformed mozzarella and cream. Split it open to show the creamy, ragged insides. Add a little olive oil, maybe some vinegar and a good sprinkling of coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and you've got a dish that you'll be dreaming about long after perfect tomatoes have disappeared.
It seems the whole country goes burrata crazy at this time of year. And why not? Stretch a thin skin of mozzarella around a voluptuous filling of mozzarella rags and cream, and how can that be bad?
With a product as delicious as burrata, the simplest preparations are almost always the best. Here are 10 ways to enjoy it — at any time of year. (If you can't find burrata, sub with fresh mozzarella.)
1. Grilled vegetable pizza
Top a rolled-out pizza dough with a layer of raw tomato salsa (just chopped tomatoes, garlic, basil, salted and drained) and a few pieces of grilled zucchini and eggplant chopped up. Bake it as hot as your oven will go. After the pizza is done, but while it is still hot, top it with pieces of burrata.
2. Roasted tomatoes
Slice plum tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange them in one layer in a baking dish. Add a few whole garlic cloves. Pour over olive oil to come halfway up the tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake at 300 degrees until the tomatoes start to shrivel and brown; a couple of hours. Cool and spoon some tomatoes onto a plate, put a torn hunk of burrata in the middle (the insides should show … it's the best-looking part).
3. Shaved zucchini, radishes and mint
Slice the zucchini lengthwise about 1/8-inch thick. Salt and set aside in a colander to drain for 30 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry. Slice radishes paper thin. Make a vinaigrette with peppery olive oil, lemon juice and torn mint leaves. Put the burrata in the center of a plate. Dress the zucchini lightly with the dressing and arrange around and over the burrata. Do the same with the radishes. Spoon just a little of the dressing over all.
4. Winter salad with roasted beets and blood oranges
Trim the tops and roots of several beets. Wrap in aluminum foil; roast at 400 degrees until pierced easily with a knife. Rub away the peel with your fingers and cut into wedges. Toss with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper. Arrange on a platter with blood oranges cut in circles; top with pieces of burrata. Hit the cheese with just a little more olive oil, salt and pepper.
5. Tomato risotto
Make a risotto, starting with a base of chopped tomatoes. When the rice is cooked, stir in skeins of burrata so the cheese melts slightly and gets stringy. Sprinkle with slivered basil.
6. Bruschetta with radicchio marmalade
Cook slivered radicchio slowly with olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar until the flavor is nearly sweet. Spread some of this marmalade on grilled bread and top with a hunk of burrata. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season generously with black pepper.
7. Spring salad with prosciutto and peas
Arrange slices of prosciutto in ruffles around the outside of a platter. Place the burrata in the center. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice and basil. Toss blanched fresh peas in the vinaigrette and scatter over the top of the burrata. Spoon a little of the remaining vinaigrette over the cheese.
8. Bruschetta with tapenade
Spread grilled bread moderately thickly with olive tapenade and top with a generous spoonful of burrata. Drizzle with just a little peppery olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and black pepper.
9. Roasted red bell pepper roll-ups
Roast red bell peppers on the grill or in a 400-degree oven. When the skin has wrinkled and begun to blacken, place the peppers in a brown paper bag to steam briefly. Remove the skin with your fingers; remove the stem and seeds. Cut the peppers into slabs. Roll up each around a small piece of burrata. Arrange on a platter; dress lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and torn basil leaves.
10. Summer salad with prosciutto, arugula and figs
Arrange slices of prosciutto in a ruffle around the outside of a platter. Make a vinaigrette with olive oil and lemon juice. Toss torn arugula in the vinaigrette and place it in the middle of the platter. Place hunks of burrata on top of the arugula. Slice fresh figs in half or in quarters, depending on the size, toss them in the remaining vinaigrette and scatter them over top. If you have hidden away some saba or aged balsamic vinegar, this would be a good place to use it.