Penelope Casas' Sauteed Green Beans
Daniel Young's Garlic Soup with Mussels

Russ Parsons' Bruschetta with Burrata and Radicchio Marmalade


It's been a while since I've made a Russ Parsons recipe. Because if all I ever did was write about slam-dunk recipes, you'd all be snoring your way through this blog. Or maybe that'd just be me? Either way, Russ knows his recipes. Whether he's having you puree boiled greens with cooked rice to make a delicate soup, or steam potatoes to serve under an aromatic and earthy hash of mushrooms, Russ brings you Seriously Good Food. So it was no surprise to me that his latest recipe was yet another smash hit.

In last week's LA Times, Russ wrote about burrata - an Apulian knot of mozzarella filled with rags of molten cheese and cream. In Italy, it's difficult to find burrata outside of the small region that produces it (I have some family in a town in that region and have had the most distinct pleasure of eating burrata there. It's quite the gustatory experience, and totally decadent, especially for someone raised by people with more ascetic, Lutheran sensibilities. Have you ever heard of anyone eating cream-filled cheese in northern Europe?), but of course California being California, Russ tracked down an Italian immigrant running a healthy business producing burrata in Los Angeles.

And that is great news for all of us. Because if Russ hadn't tracked down the burrata maker, he wouldn't have printed a recipe for toasted bread with sauteed radicchio topped with a dollop of cream and cheese, and we'd all be the poorer for it. I had friends coming over for dinner on Friday, and figured I'd start our dinner with a tray of these crostini passed around. After all, a weekend that started with these crostini could be a very good weekend, indeed (and it was. Dinner with friends! A Spike Lee Joint! Brooklyn Real Estate Hunting! A Blogger Meet-up!). In New York, it's not too difficult to find burrata - it gets flown in from Italy and is sold at Garden of Eden, Zabar's and Buon Italia, to name a few stores.

The radicchio marmalade was a cinch: nothing more than a hot panful of sliced radicchio cooked down with garlic cloves, oil, salt and balsamic vinegar. While that cooked, I sliced baguette rounds and toasted them. Each round got a spoonful of radicchio and a gently torn-apart piece of burrata, taking care to include both outer layer and filling. I forgot both the oil drizzling and pepper cracking on top, and still my guests and I couldn't stop eating the crostini. Crunchy bread with silky, pungent radicchio, capped with softly unctuous cheese that was fresh and barely sour: this bruschetta was delicious beyond words. And though it was utterly original and different, it tasted just like Italy.

Since I halved the recipe, I had leftover burrata to contend with. It was pretty easy getting rid of it. Some got eaten cold from the fridge with a fork the next day, after I'd spent seven hard hours baking bread with the big league and needed something - anything - to keep me alive. The rest of it I chopped up fine and dumped into a bowl of hot pasta with barely cooked tomatoes in basil oil for lunch today - the residual heat from the pasta and sauce melted the burrata, which in turn coated the spaghetti strands with creamy, wonderful flavor. Not a bad way to start the week off, either.

Bruschetta with Burrata and Radicchio Marmalade

Serves 8

1 pound radicchio, preferably di Treviso
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 baguette
1/2 pound burrata
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Trim ends, then cut each head of radicchio into lengthwise quarters and then into cross-wise ribbons about 1/4-inch wide. Combine the radicchio in a cold skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, salt and balsamic vinegar. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the radicchio has softened, about 10 minutes.

2. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the radicchio is quite soft and the bitterness has cooked out, about 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and perhaps just a little more balsamic vinegar. Remove from heat and set aside. Remove the garlic before serving.

3. Slice the baguette into half-inch slices and toast until lightly browned on both sides.

4. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of radicchio marmalade onto each slice of bread and top with a similarly sized spoonful of burrata (try to get both the filling and the wrapping in each spoonful). Sprinkle each with a light grinding of black pepper and a drizzle of the remaining olive oil and serve.