There's absolutely nothing better than a plate of burrata with fresh, late summer tomatoes, but this preparation is a close second in my book. What I love most is the contrast in flavors and textures - the sweetness of the creamy cheese playing against the bitterness of the tender broccoli rabe, each of them punctuated with flashes of pepper and lemon as their juices soften a crunchy, garlicky crouton. It's a little messy, best eaten with a knife and fork as a first course, but it's substantial enough to serve as a light main course, too. I love using plenty of young green garlic for this dish, but regular garlic works just fine. If you can't find broccoli rabe (or aren't a fan of it), you can substitute strips of Lacinato or Tuscan kale or even broccolini - and feel free to blanch your bitter greens first if you're particularly sensitive to bitter flavors. If you're lucky enough to get rabe with it's flowery blossoms, save them - they make a lovely garnish and add a nice peppery bite to the dish. Finally, while this is best with burrata, any super-fresh mozzarella will do. Make sure the cheese is at room temperature before serving - if the cheese is refrigerator-cold, you can put the wrapped cheese in a bowl of warm water for a bit so it gets really soft and its sweetness shines through. - lastnightsdinner
Test Kitchen Notes
Lastnightsdinner's headnote says it all; while there truly is no better combination than mozzarella (in any form, especially burrata) with fresh summer tomatoes, broccoli rabe makes a strong second choice as mozzarella's companion. Broccoli rabe, chile flakes, garlic, and lemon are four bold, aggressive flavors, and mozzarella softens their edges and helps them come together in this dish. When winter rolls around, and tomatoes are but a faint memory, I'll happily return to this deceivingly humble appetizer. - Rivka —The Editors
extra virgin olive oil
thick slices crusty bread
Kosher or sea salt, plus a flaky salt for finishing
Rub or brush a little bit of olive oil on both sides of the bread slices, then broil or grill the bread until crisp and toasted. When the toasts are cool enough to handle, rub one of the the garlic cloves on one side of each toast and set the toasts aside.
Trim any tough stems and woody bits from the rabe and wash it well, leaving a small amount of water clinging to it. Roughly chop the rabe into about 1 to 2-inch lengths.
Thinly slice the remaining garlic cloves, warm another tablespoon or so of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat, then add the sliced garlic, a pinch or two of chile flakes, and the broccoli rabe. Add a pinch of salt and toss the rabe until it is coated with oil, then cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When the rabe is soft and tender, turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and zest, and gently toss.
Place the toasts on a serving platter or individual plates and spoon the broccoli rabe over them. Cut the burrata into four equal pieces, being careful not to lose the milky liquid inside, then place the a piece on top of each toast, cut side up. Sprinkle a little flaky salt over the top and drizzle with your very best extra virgin olive oil.