1 August 2010

Toasted Bread with Burrata and Basil Antipasto for Our Eat, Pray, Love Italian Challenge

Toasted Bread with Burrata and Basil

Eat , Pray,Love is Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderfully crafted book about life changing experiences when she trades in her previously perfect life to travel the world "to find herself. " After a heart wrenching divorce she spends a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia. Each word in the title Eat, Pray, Love is expanded by her experiences in three countries. In Italy she indulges in the fabulous food and language. In India she finds new meaning in her life on her personal journey of self-awareness and enlightenment spending time in an Indian ashram. Then as a climax to the book she finally finds love in Bali, Indonesia.

If you have been following More Than Burnt Toast you will know that I have been creating personal challenges based on a theme to infuse new life into my own cooking adventures. At the moment I am not travelling the world on my own personal journey as the author did but I can infuse new life into my own kitchen. Since this is a food blog I am going to concentrate on the EAT part of the book so my next personal challenge will see me create an Italian menu from antipasti to dolce to celebrate the opening of Eat, Pray, Love the movie starring Julia Roberts. The movie opens August 13th so I cannot comment from this perspective ...yet!!

If you would like to join me simply prepare an Italian dish from antipasti, primo, secondo, contorno to dolce and send the link with photo to eatchallenge(at)gmail(DOT)com before the opening of the movie. The possibilities are limitless!!!! On or around August 13th I will round up your recipes and post this journey we have all been on together. There is not much time before the movie release so join me if you can!


I admit to being uninspired in my kitchen lately for many reasons...could it be the new job, the temptations of summer, the sweltering summer heat and humidity? Whatever my reasoning every day food should be an adventure either with new ideas or experimenting with a new cuisine. Every day we should be excited about what we are eating even if it just means something as simple as making use of a wonderful find at our local farmers market. With these personally imposed challenges I am finding my culinary skills to be rejuvenated and back on track. This is the perfect time of year to pump up my kitchen into high gear!

By creating this challenge what better way to emulate Elizabeth Gilbert's sojourn in Italy than to create a menu based on local ingredients, as the Italians do, and her own adventures in Italy. I hope you will feel my excitement as I travel on my own personal journey for the next few weeks leading up to opening night. Italian cuisine is all about the freshest, most flavourful ingredients prepared simply yet exquisitely. The food of Italy places a big emphasis on regional specialties and artisanally produced products. Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, Tuscan olive oil and wines up and down the peninsular boot are famous the world over. Gilbert's time in Italy is spent immersing herself in the romantic language and cuisine of Italy that we all love. My menu does not concentrate on just one region in Italy but embraces the entire country in my own culinary adventure to celebrate the release of the movie.

 Eating in Italy is a main event and the descriptions provided to the reader of Eat, Pray, Love  and the food consumed were absolutely mouth watering and ultimately inspired this challenge. The EAT part of the book highlights Elizabeth's gastronomical indulgences and creates vivid and beautiful imagery of all things Italian. Her writing on the food she samples, is a toe curling narrative for any "foodie". She entices us with "zucchini blossoms with a soft dab of cheese", "lamb,truffles and carpaccio rolled around hazelnut mousse", "ravioli with a puree of crustaceans and octopus served like a hot salad", "airy clouds of ricotta sprinkled with pistachio", "bread chunks floating in aromatic oils", or "a salad of chilled oranges tossed in a dressing of raw onion and parsley".

To begin my journey I will begin with the antipasti. L'antipasto is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal, which literally means "before the meal." The antipasti is the appetizer or hors d'oeuvre course. Antipasti is the plural form of the word, but the singular form, antipasto, is often also used. The antipasti may consist of a number of different foods, depending on the meal and the circumstances. In a general sense, it could be almost anything served as an appetizer.  More often, however, antipasti refers to a number of traditional Italian appetizers, which can be categorized into four different groups... meats, olives, vegetables, and cheeses. Even such offerings as crostini, bruschetta, and mozzarella in carrozza.  Antipasto is served at the table and signifies the beginning of the Italian meal.

To begin our meal I am starting you off I with this simple antipasto which is traditionally made with friselle (ring-shaped rolls). Friselle are baked twice, giving the rolls a very crunchy texture. To soften the bread slightly, it's dipped in water and brushed with olive oil before serving.  If friselle aren't available, toasted ciabatta is an easier-to-find substitute. 

Burrata is a type of fresh mozzarella cheese from Puglia in southern Italy. In appearance, burrata resembles nothing more than a ball of cow's milk mozzarella with a topknot. But there's a surprise inside, a creamy, soft, lava-like center that, once the cheese has been cut open, slowly and irresistibly oozes out onto the plate. Burrata derives its name from "burro", Italian for butter, but it is actually filled with a mixture of heavy cream and stracciatella, "little rags" of mozzarella curds. The runny center is held intact by the skin of fresh mozzarella, which, in turn, is wrapped in the protective and flavorful blades of Apulian asfodelo (an herb-like plant similar to leeks). The end result places it in the company of the world's finest fresh cheeses. With all its wonderful delicate creamy, sweet, sour, and earthy flavours Burrata is best when it's taken from the fridge and left on the counter for 30 minutes, then served with the crusty calabrese bread as it is here. All you need  is some good olive oil, good pepper and sea salt.  Burrata is difficult to find so in a pinch substitute fresh whole milk mozzarella or buffala mozzarella or you can make your own when following these instructions.

**Toasted Bread with Burrata and Basil**

6 3x2-inch pieces friselle or crusty ciabatta bread, halved horizontally
5 tablespoons (about) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, peeled, halved
1 8-ounce ball burrata cheese(or substitute fresh mozzarella of buffalo mozzarella), cut into 12 wedges
Basil chiffonade
Finely grated peel from 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a small bowl with water. Place bread halves, cut side up, on baking sheet; brush bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toast bread in oven until crisp and light golden around edges, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Lightly brush each bread half with water (do not soak). Rub cut sides of bread halves with cut sides of garlic halves.

Place 2 bread halves, cut side up, on each of 6 plates. Drizzle each bread half lightly with olive oil. Top each half with 1 burrata wedge; sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Mound chiffonade basil atop burrata on each bread half; sprinkle each with grated lemon peel and serve.

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  1. I am a big fan of burrata! Those looks so scrumptious.



  2. What a fun challenge, Val! I just tried reading the book, but got so busy, so I stopped. I wanted to finish it before the movie, but it looks like I'll probably be seeing the movie before I read the book. Ugh. That said..YUM! What an amazing dish you've created...I could close my eyes and take a bite and imagine I was smack dab in the destination of my dreams...

  3. Burrata. You have reminded me that it's been waaaay too long since I had some. GREG

  4. I have never heard of burrata, but it sounds wonderful. This challenge sounds like a delicious one! I read the book quite some time ago- I may just have to re-read it to get some inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I shall do so, I am in Italy afterall!

  6. I have not heard of burrata. It sounds as though it would be wonderful...I will have to try it. I will also have to open the book that has been waiting for me!

  7. I will most certainly be back to see what you create. Your review of the book was wonderful. I hope the day treats you well. Blessings...Mary

  8. I am so excited for this movie to come out and am even more excited now because of your new challenge. I have a deep-seeded love of Italian food...hopefully I can get something up before the big day!

    These burrata and basil crostini look like the perfect appetizer for a barbecue...or even just to sit around eating for lunch!

  9. Oh Val, I should be so uninspired as you!
    Burrate is new to me but it must now find a place on my table.

  10. Val I can't wait to see the movie. I have not read the book yet. What a great challenge.

  11. Simple summer flavours and you don't want anything too busy to cover up burrata's delicate flavour.

  12. Not only did I love Eat, Pray, Love, but Burrata is my all time favorite cheese. Here in California it's fresh mozzarella wrapped around ricotta, giving it a creamy, salty flavor. I try to pick it up fresh every week on Fridays when my cheese shop gets its delivery.

  13. Burrata is so decadent, there's nothing like it! We all need inspiration at times Val and sometimes it's just the simple things that excite us the most, like cheese, bread, olive oil and basil.Perfection!

  14. This looks delicious! A perfect appetizer to have before going to see the movie :)

  15. a great start to a fancy meal, for sure! i'm looking forward to the movie, and not just because i'm a fan of julia roberts--i think it'll be a hunger-inducing show. :)

  16. This is the first I have heard of the book so you have me intrigued!

  17. I love the book and read it twice... sor far. We must be thinking alike - yesterday, prepared burrata with pesto and roasted tomatoes - a riff on Caprese. Long live burrata! Your photos are mouth-watering.

  18. Those look so pretty, love the colors. I made a dish with burrata too!

  19. Burrata...I make mine with a heirloom tomato salad..Lovely post

  20. We never could get burrata here until just a few years ago, and it's so nice to get both local and imported burrata at the Italian cheese markets now.

  21. Simple and lovely. This is the second burrata recipe I've read about today. Must find it!

    Good luck w/ your new job...and the heat. It's pretty steamy here, too.

  22. I love burrata. This looks great.


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