I have a secret.
Sometimes when I need a recipe or inspiration on how to prepare a certain ingredient there is generally one person I turn to. He is a chef and he always has the answers I’m looking for.
I have another secret.
I love cheese.
Here is where these two secrets meet: I am often looking for a new and creative way to cook with cheese. It just so happens my friend with all of the answers, Chester Hastings, is coming out with a book from Chronicle Books. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen: Cooking with the World’s Finest Cheeses is exactly what I have been waiting for.
In honor of springtime and Chester’s upcoming book here is a sneak peek at a recipe from The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen.
Burrata with asparagus, pinenuts and golden raisins is so simple to prepare. Asparagus evokes springtime. Vibrant and crisp, it is a beautiful way to celebrate the season. The burrata is a delicate, creamy base for the warm, tender asparagus. The asparagus is lightly tossed with fruity olive oil, toasted pinenuts and succulent golden raisins. Top the asparagus salad with browned breadcrumbs for a nice crunch. Add a few strands of saffron and the whole dish is enlivened. This dish is light, fresh and uncomplicated.
Here is the recipe with an excerpt from the upcoming book:
BURRATA WITH ASPARAGUS, PINENUTS and GOLDEN RAISINS
The distinctly Sicilian combination of pine nuts, raisins and breadcrumbs is quickly becoming a classic all over the world. From light pastas with fried sardines and fennel, or fillings for swordfish or beefsteak rolls to lovely and light springtime fair such as this presentation of early April asparagus and fresh burrata cheese.
The addition of saffron, if used judiciously, adds a lovely perfume and an elegant effect if the threads are left whole.
2 balls fresh burrata, roughly 6 ounces each
1 bunch asparagus
2 tbsp toasted pinenuts
2 tbsp golden raisins
6 threads of saffron
½ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup bread crumbs
Cut the woody ends of the asparagus off and discard. Blanch the asparagus spears in plenty of salted boiling water until tender, just giving when pinched where the tip begins (do not overcook!). Shock the asparagus quickly in a bowl of ice water and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Cut asparagus on the angle into pieces resembling penne pasta.
Soak the golden raisins in warm water for 5 minutes to re-hydrate, then drain and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked and cut asparagus with the pine nuts, re-hydrated raisins, saffron and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Heat 4 tbsp of the olive oil over a medium heat and add the breadcrumbs. Shake the pan vigorously over the heat, frying the breadcrumbs to a light and golden crisp. Remove from heat and set aside.
Cut the burrata balls in half and lay individual plates ‘skin side’ down. Divide the asparagus mixture among the burrata pieces and sprinkled the fried breadcrumbs over the top.
Drizzle with a bit more extra virgin olive oil and serve cold or at room temperature.
*a thin slice of prosciutto di parma would be a welcome addition to this dish, simply served alongside or draped over the top to hide the jewel of a salad hidden underneath.