When my Calabrese born mother began to see bruschetta on the menu of Italian restaurants some years ago she commented, “Oh stale bread…” Italians by nature do not waste a thing, and it is quite likely that bruschetta was another way to cleverly use the bread baked weekly in communal ovens as the week came to a close and the bread was not quite as fresh. Beet & Burrata Bruschetta is a playful combination of ingredients that makes a lovely spuntino, aperitivo course or light dinner along with a green salad.
Beets, beet root, bietole, barbabietola – whatever you may call them have been always part of the Italian cuisine; whether it be as a filling for ravioli, insalata, roasted, boiled, and the greens sautéed. Roasting is probably the easiest method of preparing beets and helps to intensify the flavor of this root vegetable. Simply remove the leaves – save those to saute, wrap the roots in parchment lined foil packages and pop into the oven. Once the beets are fork tender, they can easily be peeled by hand while still quite warm; caution – wear rubber gloves unless you are interested in a deep red stain on your hands (which is almost impossible to scrub away). After the beets have been peeled, the possibilities are endless.
The peeled beets should be sliced immediately with either a sharp knife or an inexpensive Japanese mandoline. Combine the beets with the vinaigrette in a glass or ceramic bowl at once. Adding vegetables to seasoning elements such as olive oil, garlic or a simple dressing while still warm allows them to absorb the flavor much better than they would when cold.
Burrata pairs wonderfully with the thinly sliced seasoned beats and toasted bread. The word burrata actually means buttery in Italian. Buratta is a soft, fresh mozzarella with a creamy center of cream and mozzarella; once the Burrata is sliced the thick milky cream oozes out. Burrata has a short shelf life so always purchase it from a reputable source with the intention to use it immediately.
A good quality artisanal style bread elevates the status of any bruschetta. It is both a blessing and a curse that one of the best artisanal bread bakeries in the area is just steps away from my office. Traditionally the bread for bruschetta is grilled however toasting is a good alternative, but in either case, like the beets, the bread should be seasoned while still warm.
A drizzle of Balsamico, a few toasted walnuts pieces and a garnish of fresh chives brings the dish together splendidly. Beet & Burrata Bruschetta makes a wonderful accompaniment to a glass of chilled Trento DOC or Prosecco. Serve it along with some of the sautéed beet greens or a green salad for a special lunch or light dinner.
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- 3 to 4 smaller sized beets
- 8 oz. burratta
- 1 European style baguette
- Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing the bread
- 1 clove of garlic peeled and sliced into halves
- 2 Tbs. good quality Balsamic vinegar
- 4 Tbs. Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup of lightly toasted walnuts roughly chopped
- 2 Tbs. minced chives
- Large flake sea salt, preferably Sicilian
- Balsamic vinegar and Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
- Preheat the oven to 425º. Cut the greens from the beet root, reserving them to sauté to be served along side the bruschetta or for another recipe. Take a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the beets and lay on top of a baking dish or sheet; line the foil with a sheet of parchment paper. Place the scrubbed beets on top of the parchment, add a few tablespoons of water and wrap to enclose the beets completely. Roast for one hour or until the beets are easily pierced with a fork.
- While the beets are roasting prepare the dressing. Combine the shallots, 2 tablespoons of balsamic, 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl, whisk together.
- Once the beets have been roasted, remove the pan from the oven and carefully open the foil package. Take care in opening the package as hot steam will be released. Take the entire package and place it in the bottom of a clean kitchen sink. While the beets are still warm and you are able to handle them, rub the outer skin off and thinly slice with either a sharp knife or Japanese mandoline. Place the warm sliced beets into the prepared dressing, combining well so that all of the slices are coated by the dressing. Allow this to sit for a few hours or overnight.
- When you are ready to prepare and serve the bruschetta, remove the buratta from the refrigerator. Lay the burrata on a paper towel to absorb any of the milky liquid that remains.
- Slice the bread into ¾" segments. Traditionally the bread for bruschetta is toasted on a grill, however a conventional toaster will suffice. Toast or grill the sliced bread and immediately rub both sides with the cut garlic. Brush the top of the slices with some extra virgin olive oil.
- Arrange the prepared bread slices on a serving platter. Using your hands, pull the burrata into irregular pieces. Top each of the pieces of bread with a few of the seasoned beet slices, overlapping them as you arrange them. Lay a generous piece of burrata on each of the beet lined bread slices. Top the bruschetta with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts, some of the freshly chopped chives, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of large flake sea salt. Serve immediately.