I think I've found my new go-to appetizer for the next couple of months. And based on the reaction it provoked on its debut last weekend, I don't fear that it'll get played out. This combination of creamy burrata, crisp toasts, and a mountain of fresh peas and fava beans is seriously tasty, and it seriously screams spring.
And a tip: Always ask your grocer if what's on the shelf is from their most recent shipment. Burrata is about as perishable as it gets. If you can't find it, fresh ricotta or a nice fresh mozzarella will do, but burrata has that unique capability of bringing this dish to a righteously elevated level of taste.
The best way to eat this is without restraint: Slather the olive oiled toasts with a generous smear of burrata and top with plenty of peas and favas. Consider this a make-your-own crostini platter, with each diner basically determining his own personal vegetable-to-cheese ratio.
The recipe is meant to be loosely followed, and it'll feed a crowd just as easily as a party of two. Just scale the proportions up or down accordingly. I aimed for overkill with the cheese and used three balls of burrata for twelve people. My, how I underestimated our capacity; it was devoured in full. So perhaps assess your crowd first and then determine your burrata needs.
We passed the plate up and down the table during the main course, which made for a most unexpected side dish. Indeed, it could easily play the appetizer or the side dish role quite well. It can also totally sit out at room temperature with no problem, and it just gets better and better as the cream and soft curds in the middle of the burrata spill out and saturate the toasts, favas, and peas.
The versatility of this dish is pretty obvious, and I'd even say that it could stand in for a main course, if accompanied by a bit of grilled chicken or fish, or a small grain salad.
Who needs dinner after an appetizer like this one? I'm kidding, sort of. But, not really. This is the kind of appetizer that has the power to win hearts and minds. It's spring on a plate, in the most fresh and luxurious way possible. If conversation comes to a halt as soon as this plate hits the table, don't be alarmed. In fact, be alarmed if that doesn't happen.
On their own, each of the ingredients is already perfect — olive oil toasts, peas and fava beans with mint and fresh lemon, and of course the creamy ball of burrata. Put them together, and you have a truly exceptional appetizer for a small group — or dinner for two.
2 pounds English peas, shelled
2 pounds fava beans, shelled
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large baguette or crusty bread, cut on the bias into 1-inch slices
1/2 bunch mint, thinly sliced, plus more mint leaves for garnish
1 ball burrata cheese
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil, then blanch the peas until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peas to an ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain and pat dry.
In the same pot, bring the water back to a boil and add fava beans. Cook for 1 minute and transfer to the ice water bath. Drain. Using a small pairing knife, peel the outer, waxy shell to release the fava beans.
In a medium bowl, combine peas, favas, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Preheat the broiler. Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil and season with salt. Place slices on a broiler pan or baking sheet and broil, flipping once, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes per side.
Just before serving, toss the mint with the peas and favas. Place the burrata on a platter and spoon the fava and pea mixture around. Arrange the toasted bread on the platter, garnish with mint leaves and olive oil, and serve.
This recipe has been updated — originally published April 2012.