Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Heirloom Tomatoes With Burrata

Wednesday, May 03, 2017
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert

Serve 4

Burrata, meaning "buttery" in Italian is a fresh cheese made from a mix of mozzarella and cream. The cheese originated in the Apulia region of Italy known for sheep farming and agriculture. It is sold traditionally in asphodel leaves with a polyethylene plastic bag over it. The green color of asphodel leaves is an indicator of the freshness of the cheese.

When you cut open a Burrata, it oozes with buttery and creamy panna containing scraps of mozzarella. The cream has a rich flavor and has to be eaten immediately since it is a fresh cheese. Burrata is usually served fresh at room temperature and beyond 48 hours, it is considered past its prime. The taste of Burrata goes well with salads, crusty bread, and prosciutto, fresh tomatoes with olive oil and with spaghetti. This type of Italian cheese has become very popular in Italian restaurants lately, unfortunately it is made from unpasteurized milk so it may not be suitable for everyone, and especially expecting pregnancy will have to avoid it. You can however eat the white Buffalo mozzarella cheese if again you are sure that it is made from pasteurized milk. The main difference between fresh mozzarella and burrata is that fresh mozzarella cheese is a semi-soft Italian cheese made from cow or water buffalo milk. Burrata cheese takes the mozzarella one step further — it's mozzarella that's formed into a pouch and then filled with soft, stringy curd and cream.

Ingredients

6 multicolored heirloom tomatoes or any good ripe tomatoes

2 balls burrata cheese, 4 to 5 ounces each

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons torn fresh basil

Cracked black pepper

Directions

Core the tomatoes and slice ½ inch thick. Slice the cheese ½ inch thick.

Divide the tomatoes and cheese among 4 serving plates. Shingle them so the colors alternate: red, white, yellow, white, and so on.

Drizzle each plate with olive oil and vinegar, then garnish with basil and freshly ground black pepper.

What Is An Heirloom Tomato?

An heirloom is generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family because of its valued characteristics. Since 'heirloom' varieties have become popular in the past few years there have been liberties taken with the use of this term for commercial purposes. Below are the 4 categories.

Commercial Heirlooms: Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940, or tomato varieties more than 50 years in circulation.

Family Heirlooms: Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family.

Created Heirlooms: Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for however many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more.

Mystery Heirlooms: Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.

The term "Heirloom" applied to plants was apparently first used by Kent Whealy of Seed Savers Exchange, who first used "heirloom" in relation to plants in a speech he gave in Tucson in 1981. He had asked permission to use the term "heirloom" from John Withee, who had used the term on the cover of his bean catalog. John said sure, that he had taken it from Prof. William Hepler at the University of New Hampshire, who first used the term "heirloom" to describe some beans that friends had given him back in the 1940s.

 

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well."  Check out the Chef's website and blog.

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