My favorite time to put burrata (a fresh mozzarella typical of the south of Italy) on the menu is when that first excited flush of spring happens in early March. After the cheese is finished with fresh cream, making for an exceptionally soft and decadent indulgence, it is formed into a little purse; this also means its shelf life is shorter than most cheeses. Burrata pairs well with the delicate spring vegetables that carry us out of the dark, cold days of winter like spring onion, green garlic, asparagus, peas, and favas. Our asparagus salad is a perfect example of the happy union between creamy cheese and fresh vegetables.
Yield: two servings
12 salt-cured Kalamatas or other olive varietal
2-3 sprigs of parsley
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp. chili oil
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup neutral oil like rice bran or safflower for frying
5-7 small- to medium-sized asparagus spears
1 ball of burrata
Charred Meyer lemon salt*
Pit the olives and rough chop. Chop parsley, mince two cloves of garlic, and add to chopped olives. Add chili oil and one tablespoon olive oil, mix, and set aside. Heat the frying oil in a small stockpot until it reaches 250 degrees. Carefully slice remaining garlic on a mandolin. Fry garlic slices in the oil, removing them from pot when they stop bubbling and just begin to turn golden and transfer to a towel-lined plate. Season lightly with salt while they are still warm.
Peel the bottom third of all but two asparagus spears to get rid of any tough or woody texture in the stems. Season with salt and drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Heat a sauté pan on medium high for two minutes and add asparagus, shaking them in the pan every 30 seconds. Cook until the outside is blistered, but the inside of each spear retains some crunch, about three to four minutes.
With a vegetable peeler, peel the entire length of the remaining two spears of asparagus, dropping the ribbons directly into ice water to maintain crunch. In a small bowl, add asparagus ribbons, salt, a squeeze of lemon, and a light drizzle of olive oil.
On a plate, arrange the warm asparagus spears and top with the ball of burrata. Sprinkle with the charred lemon salt and top burrata with shaved asparagus and garlic chips. Spoon olive mixture in dollops around the plate and enjoy!
*Charred Meyer Lemon Salt
During the winter months, Meyer lemons abound on trees throughout neighborhoods around Sonoma County. We are always looking for different ways to preserve the harvest and one technique is to dehydrate them for flavored salts. I like to take it one step further and blacken the flesh of each fruit to add a caramelized dimension to the end product.
Cut lemons in half cross-wise. In a hot, dry sauté pan, place lemons halves face-down until flesh is burnt and black. Place in a dehydrator until completely dry (about 48 hours) and store in an airtight container. To make the salt, grind two lemon halves in spice grinder and stir into two tablespoons of finishing salt, like Maldon or Fleur de Sel.
Looking for another way to preserve your Meyer lemon harvest? Look no further! Preserving the Magical Meyer Lemon.