I made this simple antipasti plate for the fourth time in two months over the weekend, so I figured its about time it made an appearance on shetrusts! As you can probably tell by how I describe each component specifically and with such care, that this is how I like to cook, and by proxy, how I choose to live my life: enjoying the simple pleasures of a only few good things done right.
Also known as my "plate full of happiness", the components of this plate draw upon the traditional Italian flavor combinations of tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese. I kick this beloved flavor combination up a notch by marinating the tomatoes in a spicy garlic olive oil and pairing it with the luxurious burrata cheese. Now if you've never tried burrata, which is a type of fresh mozzarella that is composed of solid mozzarella on the outside with a velvety mixture of mozzarella and cream on the inside, then please use this as an excuse to try it. It is now moderately easy to find in most grocery stores, but it can be a bit pricey (insider's tip: Trader Joe's always has it on hand for a much more reasonable price than the big chain grocery stores). However I promise you that its worth the investment. At first taste, you'll never be accepting of plain ole fresh mozzarella again!
Now, as if the tomatoes and burrata weren't enough to send you into food frenzy, I complete the plate by adding thick slices of pan-toasted baguette (or any type of fresh rustic country bread) slices. There's something about pan-toasting the bread in a butter and olive oil combination that gives the bread an added richness that you just don't get from simply toasting the slices in the oven... the richness that can only be achieved from butter, of course! And by keeping the slices on the thicker side, you allow for more opportunities for the bread to sop up some of that beautiful olive oil that has drizzled across the plate from the tomatoes.
I like to put together this delightful culinary gift when I'm looking for something simple yet delicious to serve as a snack for visitors and house guests (which we seem to be having a lot of lately thanks to our latest arrival), or when I'm having one of those weeks in which my soul could use some nourishment that only comfort food can provide. In such instances, usually when I'm spending the night in to savor the solitude of my own company (which I just realized I won't be doing for quite a long time... eeeck!!), I pull together this "plate full of happiness" for dinner, made complete with a large glass of my favorite red or white wine. I think you're beginning to see why I call it a "plate full of happiness"...
Simple Caprese Antipasti Plate
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra for toasting the bread
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned
1 container of Burrata cheese (or two large balls)
1 tablespoon of butter
1 baguette or any type of fresh rustic bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch slices
Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the halved tomatoes in a large bowl; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- In a heavy saucepan, add the olive oil, smashed garlic cloves, and crushed red pepper flakes. Place over medium heat, and cook at a low simmer until the garlic cloves have reached a golden brown color. Be careful not to burn the garlic!
- Pour the infused olive oil straight from the pan over the tomatoes, discarding the cooked garlic. (Don't wash the pan! Save all that garlic flavor for toasting the bread)
- Add the chopped basil leaves to the tomato/olive oil mixture and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving.
- In the same pan that you used to infuse the olive oil, add the butter and a generous pour of olive oil into the pan. Once the butter is bubbly, add a few slices of the bread and toast each side until it appears golden brown. Work in batches to ensure a perfect crispy texture, and make sure to season each side with salt and pepper.
- Time to plate! Gently slice the burrata and place at an angle in the middle of the plate to show off its creamy goodness.
- Pour the marinated tomato mixture on one side of the burrata. Drizzle some of the remaining olive oil on top of the sliced burrata.
- Complete the plate by adding the sliced bread on the opposite side of the burrata. Sprinkle the whole combination with sea salt and pepper to taste, and serve!