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Crisp snap pea salad turns indulgent when paired with burrata

THE WASHINGTON POST – “It ain’t gonna slide down easy if it ain’t cheesy!” That’s one of the signature lines of TikTok star Tanara Mallory, who pokes fun at viral cooking videos by exclaiming, “Everybody’s so creative!”

It’s also not too far from my mind-set when I first started cooking vegetarian dishes. A dozen years ago, I leaned so heavily on eggs and cheese as a crutch, you’d be forgiven for not necessarily noticing the vegetables on the plate. I’ve come a long way. These days, I eat very little dairy cheese, preferring to showcase plants in my cooking, with little to no need for adornment by animal products.

But I still have a soft spot (pun intended) for one cheese in particular: burrata, the mash-up of mozzarella and cream that, when it is fresh, adds a dose of indulgence to anything you pair it with. I still remember the first time I had a burrata appetiser at DC’s Centrolina restaurant; I was with a colleague from the Food team, and we marvelled at how transcendent the simple marriage of burrata and peak produce could be.

That time of year, it was cherries, and the duo was finished with little more than sublime olive oil and flaky sea salt. I considered asking chef/owner Amy Brandwein for a recipe, but it seemed almost too simple to write down.

A salad from Sheela Prakash’s delightful new book, Salad Seasons, takes a similar approach by combining burrata with a springtime star – sugar snap peas. Prakash’s point is made clear by the title’s plurality: Salad is not just for the warm-weather months. As she writes, “a salad made with in-season goodies can be on the centre of your table even in the depths of winter.”

Scorched sugar snap pea and burrata salad. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

In six months, I have no doubt, I’ll be tempted by her blackened broccoli rabe Caesar. But here and now, I’m grabbing what’s pouring out of markets and gardens, and that includes sugar snaps. My husband is a fan, too; he still talks about the day years ago when on my sister and brother-in-law’s Maine homestead, he picked a sugar snap off the vine and couldn’t believe how good it tasted without a single application of seasoning or heat. It helped sell him on my own attempts to grow food in our DC backyard.

Indeed, you can’t go wrong by eating peak-season sugar snaps raw. But for this salad, Prakash has you add even more layers of flavour, simply by searing them in a hot skillet and tossing them with soft red onions and a lemony vinaigrette. When you scatter them around a ball or two of burrata on a platter, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sumac and salt, then take a bite, you’ll wonder why you never thought of this before. Creamy meets crunchy, sweet meets tart, perfection meets… perfection.

And yet. For those of you who don’t eat dairy at all, let me reassure you. While burrata is unique, I’ve made this same salad with vegan mozzarella and even silken tofu, and it’s outstanding. Even the sugar snaps can be swapped out for snow peas, asparagus or green beans. Just make sure whatever you use is at its freshest, and it’ll go down easy.

SCORCHED SUGAR SNAP PEA AND BURRATA SALAD

This is a showstopper of a salad, featuring juicy, crunchy, sweet sugar snap peas in a lemony vinaigrette and paired with creamy, dreamy, indulgent burrata. Serve as a light main course or starter, with or without bread.

SUBSTITUTIONS

No sugar snaps: Use snow peas, green beans or asparagus.

Burrata: Fresh mozzarella, vegan mozzarella or silken tofu.

Mint: Parsley or cilantro.

Lemon: Lime or apple cider vinegar.

Sumac: Za’atar or lemon zest.

INGREDIENTS

Three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for serving

Half medium red onion, thinly sliced

Half teaspoon fine salt, divided, plus more to taste

Quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more to taste

One pound sugar snap peas, tough strings removed

Three tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Quarter cup chopped fresh mint leaves

One teaspoon ground sumac, plus more for serving

One or two balls burrata cheese

Flaky sea salt, for serving

DIRECTIONS

In a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat two tablespoons of the oil until it shimmers.

Add the onion, season with quarter teaspoon of the salt and one-eighth teaspoon of the pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned in spots, three to four minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Working in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding, add the peas to the skillet in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until charred in spots on the bottom, two to four minutes.

Season with the remaining quarter teaspoon of salt and one-eighth teaspoon of pepper. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender and lightly browned in spots all over, about two minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the onion.

Add the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil, the lemon juice, mint and sumac to the bowl and toss to combine. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper as needed.

Place the burrata in the centre of a serving platter and spoon the snap pea mixture around.

Drizzle with a little more olive oil, and sprinkle with a little more sumac and a few pinches of flaky sea salt. Serve warm or at room temperature. – Joe Yonan

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