By Tim Hazell
Romans, Greeks and Persians were fond of mixed salads; combinations of greens tossed with olive oil and vinegar. Layered and dressed salads have been popular in Europe since the Roman imperial expansions. Mary Queen of Scots enjoyed boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.
Records of salad dressing ingredients have been recovered from the seventeenth-century American colony of New Netherland (later divided and renamed New York, New Jersey and Delaware). Common items arriving by ship, annotated in cargo appraisals, included “a can of salad oil at 1.10 florins” and “an anker of wine vinegar at 16 florins.” In a 1665 letter to the Director of New Netherland from the Island of Curaçao there is a gentle inquiry to send greens: “I request most amicably that your honor be pleased to send me seed of every sort, such as cabbage, carrots, lettuce and parsley, for none can be acquired here and I know that your honor has plenty…”
This distinctive salad is an elegant combination of almonds, asparagus, sugar snap peas, peaches, plums, cherries and fresh herbs. It derives its name from the Burrata cheese balls nestled into the ingredients just before serving. Cherries are also referred to as “stone fruit.”
Burrata is an Italian cheese, made from cows milk, rennet and cream. It has a recent history and is produced in the Murgia subregion of southern of Italy. Lorenzo Bianchini of the Piana Padura farm may have been the first to develop the product in 1956. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the soft interior contains stracciatella and cream. Burrata is usually served at room temperature. You can substitute mozzarella, goat cheese or feta.
Burrata Salad with Stone Fruit and Asparagus
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
1 bsp. chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Sea or regular salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch young asparagus
3 cups sugar snap or snow peas
4 peaches, sliced
2 plums, sliced
3 cups cherries, halved and pitted (substitute other fresh fruit or berries)
1/2 cup fresh mint or basil leaves
Two 8-ounce balls of burrata (substitute goat cheese, torn mozzarella or cubed feta)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red-wine vinegar and lemon juice. Stir in the almonds, oregano and red-pepper flakes; season with salt and black pepper. Working in batches, blanch the asparagus and sugar snap peas until bright green and slightly tender but still crunchy, about 30 seconds. Transfer each batch to the ice-water bath to cool, about 1 minute. Dry the vegetables on paper towels. Add the asparagus, sugar snap peas, peaches, plums, cherries and mint or basil leaves to the bowl of salad dressing. Toss to coat. Arrange the salad on a large serving platter. Nestle in the burrata balls or add goat cheese, mozzarela or feta.