Pea & Burrata Salad

This past Fourth of July weekend, we were invited onto our friends' boat in Marina del Rey. The plan was to ride to Paradise Cove in Malibu, dock there for two nights and catch the fireworks show. I was tasked with making dinner the first night. With a tiny kitchen to work in–not to mention the constant rocking of the boat itself–I took inspiration from "quick n' easy" communal-style dishes, like dips and salads from a quirky Israeli restaurant in Silver Lake called Mh Zh. My menu was, as follows:

Mixed bitter lettuces
with finely grated sharp cheddar, dukkah and toasted pine nuts

Pea and burrata salad
with mint, dill and lemon zest

Spicy lamb ragù over hummus
with harissa and labne
served with grilled flatbread

 

The easiest dish to pull together, by far, was the pea and burrata salad. It's "semi-homemade", if you will–you're essentially putting frozen peas that have been thawed and dressed over a ball of burrata. It's a fabulous summer dish to serve as an appetizer with friends... Whether or not you're on a boat! For my version, please find the recipe below!


1-2 balls of burrata
5 ounces of frozen organic peas
1 lemon
Very good olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper
A few sprigs of fresh mint leaves
A few sprigs of fresh dill

--

1. Prep the frozen peas according to package directions and set aside in a mixing bowl.

2. Chop the mint and dill and add to the peas. Toss. Then, zest the lemon over the pea and herb mixture. Toss again.

4. Pour about a tablespoon or so of olive oil into the bowl with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and toss the mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Adjust proportions to your liking.

5. Gently place the burrata into your serving bowl. Slice a cross over the top of each ball and open to reveal the creamy interiors. Spoon the pea salad on top and finish with a generous lashing of olive oil before serving.

A Brunch Burger Story

From the menu at Manuela

A burger on the menu is a fail-safe item for when nothing else interests you–not the braised rabbit; not the lamb skewers with couscous; not the grilled quail with cherry sauce. It's a solid stand-by. You know what you're getting with a burger: a bun and a patty of beef. However, when it's rendered unfamiliar, you can feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under you.

This past weekend, I met my friend Carmen for late brunch/early lunch in DTLA. She had been in her home country of Switzerland for months and we were long overdue for a catch-up. As we hit the streets, she suggested we go around the corner and check out Manuela, the restaurant that recently opened in the same building that houses the art gallery Hauser Wirth & Schimmel.

Originally, she thought we could casually grab a burger at Umami Burger, but discovering something new together sounded far more enticing. The restaurant had been open for less a week and we easily found two seats at the white marble bar. Louise Bourgeois' Spider sculpture loomed behind us in the open courtyard.

After skimming the menu, we engaged in the usual "what are you having" exchange. The dishes on Manuela's menu were distinctly rooted in Tex-Mex cuisine yet infused with a locally-sourced and seasonal spin. Everything was elevated for the sophisticated and in-the-know crowd--the duck breast is cured, the chicken is smoked and the hot sauce is fermented.

"What are you thinking?" I asked Carmen, still undecided.

"I think I might get the burger," she replied, clearly intent on it. "Wait, what do you think they mean by 'deer burger'?" 

"Deer... Like venison. You know, a cute little deer."

"Oh my god, no... I can't do that. I can't eat a deer!" she exclaimed with widened eyes. "Especially not for brunch! Why would they do that?" 

We both envisioned sweet, little Bambi weeping before us with thick wet lashes. Needless to say, our reliable burger option was effectively nixed off the list. Meanwhile, the biscuits and gravy sounded too heavy, the cornmeal pancakes seemed too breakfast-y at that hour, and we weren't quite hungry enough for the BBQ ribs. It was at that moment that I knew what to order. 

"I'm going to get the chilaquiles!" I declared. (As a Texan at heart, I do love chilaquiles.)

"What's that?" she wondered. 

How could I explain this hot mess to a Swiss-Italian person? "It's tortilla chips sautéed in a tomato-chile salsa. Some bits are soft and some are crispy and then they put a fried egg on top."

Sold!

You really can't lose with what is, essentially, breakfast nachos. I was delighted to have seen it on the menu. Manuela's version was top-notch. Every chip was perfectly coated with the tangy, spicy salsa and simultaneously soft and crispy, which is key. The delicious pile of chips was garnished with guacamole, crumbled queso fresca and a drizzle of crema. The egg, which came from one of their 12 rare-breed chickens from the garden out back, was truly the cherry on top.

As we were chowing down, a waitress breezed past us carrying a classic-looking hamburger. You could say that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck...

"That must be the deer burger," Carmen remarked. "It looks good... But it's still a deer."

Ironic how what she thought was unfamiliar turned out to be more familiar than the seemingly familiar. We continued on with our chilaquiles