Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comfort Me Caprese

It’s really the simplest things that get me through the week: an 82 year old Polish patient at my work who bursts into Italian bravado like a robust robin puffing out his chest, or the prospect of my first lobster dinner tonight (keep posted). In terms of culinary comfort, anything Italian will do. Last night was the often underrated caprese.

There are so many incarnations of this dish; the easiest, at-home variation requires fresh buffalo mozzarella in water (I get mine at Trader Joe’s, or splurge for the milky, salty upgrade at Gelson’s). A basil leaf sandwiched between the two thick slices and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar completes the dish. Voila – a sinfully delicious snack in under 10 minutes transports me back to Rome, if only for a few bites.

On Christmas Eve this year, while my forever-behind-schedule-father slaved away at a roast beef, my Uncle Gregg put together a caprese I’d never thought of before: flower of burrata cheese blooming with basil strips and a home-made roasted tomato sauce. The result took the clean-cut taste of my usual caprese to a decadent, creamy level that I couldn’t get enough of.

In my last jaunt to Italy, I was much too preoccupied with pasta (amatriciana, con vuongole, Bolognese, carbonara) and pizza to order too much of my favorite antipasto, but I did sample a dish in Milan that lived up to the reputation of the fashion capitol of the world. A burrata salad surrounded by a light pesto dipping sauce, with stuffed campari tomatoes. After an overnight ferry from Patra, Greece, and a six hour train ride from Ancona, Italy, a model-esque meal was exactly what I needed. The crunch of the stuffed tomatoes paired perfectly with the sweet melt of burrata.

I’ll have to try the burrata/pesto variations myself and see what comes of it. How do you make caprese?

Preview for this weekend: DineLA restaurants – are the set menus worth the deal? Tonight I try lobster for the first time at Enterprise Fish Company in Santa Monica, and tomorrow I return to Angelli Caffe on Melrose Blvd for a dish I've been praising for weeks: butternut squash lasagna!


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