If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m trying to arm you for the coming holiday season with dishes you barely need a recipe for, made of ingredients that can lie in wait in your fridge or pantry for a while until their glorious, shining moment. Recipes that feel familiar enough to wing when they’re not in front of you and cool/fancy/pretty/interesting/special enough to want to wing in the exact moment you realize You’re Gonna Have to Wing It.
This total babe, for example, is really nothing more than a well-loved formula with a few cute garnishes: soft, fresh-curd cheese + scattered chewy topper + a nut element + a sweet and/or acidic thing + fresh herb + copious amounts of decent olive oil and big salt.
Once you realize it, you can’t un-see it: Fresh goat cheese + dried cranberries + crushed pecans + maple syrup + rosemary. Sheep’s milk feta + candied orange rind + walnuts + honey (or lemon! or both!) + mint. Ricotta + roasted tomatoes + anything + anything + anything.
You get it.
I didn’t invent this, but as someone who is seemingly, gleefully, on some lifelong dare to consume cheese or dairy at nearly every meal, I’m pretty experienced with the combo.
It’s seasonless, like the shoes or that top you throw on, seconds before the doorbell rings, after chucking the thing you felt like you “should” wear across the room. (Anyone else? Just me?) I could eat this once a week for a year and it might look a little different each time. And yet, it still reads as festive and special when you do haul it out for guests.
It takes five minutes to assemble, looks cuter the messier you smash the burrata and tear the olives (also a great job for kids), and, since 2018 has evidently been the Year of Burrata (among a multitude of darker superlatives), requires no special trips to gourmet stores or delis.
Free yourself from overwrought food this holiday (and all days). I say this for you as much as I say it for myself. Depend on your dependables. Stand by your standbys. In this season of maximalism, see just how far a minimalist repertoire can take you.
A few notes:
I love mild, buttery Castelvetrano olives for this particular combo as they’re not so briny as to overpower the burrata. Those salty, chewy oil-cured olives would also be stellar. But I’ll also rep a strong holiday olive crock til I die, so in the spirit of wingin’ it I fully support using whatever you have.
The herb is sort of up to you. Parsley or basil or even rosemary, finely chopped, would be excellent here. I love thyme not only because it is delicious (and actually its cousin lemon thyme is pictured here), but it is also small. Maybe this is weird but in the name of boundaries and radical holiday self-care I refuse to finely chop any herbs when guests are coming. In my head, it takes forever (not real) and stresses me out (very real) even before I have to do it. So I free myself from the fuss and thyme leaves are so tiny it’s like nature pre-chopped them. Joyeux!
Smashed Burrata with Pistachios, Thyme, and Castelvetrano Olives
1 8-ounce ball burrata cheese
1 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, torn in half
1/4 cup shelled, roasted, salted pistachios, crushed (I just crack these lightly with a rolling pin)
Leaves from 6 thyme sprigs (some can be left whole, particularly if they’re young and not woody)
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon flaky salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Baguette, sourdough, or crackers, for serving
Using your hands, gently tear the burrata open and place in a small serving bowl. Scatter the olives, pistachios, and lemon zest over the burrata. Pool most of the olive oil around the burrata, then drizzle a bit over the top as well. Sprinkle with the salt and season with black pepper to taste. Serve with bread or crackers.
- baked goods
- beans + legumes
- dinner party
- gluten free
- make ahead
- pregnant food
- roasted stuff
- special occasions
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