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 ingredients is seriously tasty, and it seriously screams spring.
The trick here is to get excellent burrata. 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 would wear the appetizer hat quite well and can totally sit out at room temperature with no problem, just getting 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.
Fava Beans and Peas with Burrata
Serves 4 to 6
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 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
In a medium pot of boiling salted water, blanch peas until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to an ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain and pat dry.
To the same pot, add fava beans. Cook for 1 minute and remove to an 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 broiler. Brush the bread on both sides with olive oil. Season with salt. Place slices on a broiler pan or baking sheet and broil, flipping once, until lightly toasted on each side.
Immediately before serving, toss the mint with 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.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Images: Nora Singley)