Say Cheese

I've just returned from the City of Angels and boy am I missing that Southern Californian sunshine! Los Angeles is a city I'm fortunate enough to visit regularly, as I have a son who lives there, in fact I'll go as far as to consider myself an honorary Angeleno! It's not about smiling, posing and saying cheese in front of the iconic Hollywood sign, oh no Los Angeles is all about the impressive dining scene. Being a devoted food-lover, LA is quite honestly a foodie mecca and it's the diversity of cuisines available which astounds me. The quality of gourmet food is unrivalled and the dilemma arises when deciding on what to eat, once you've got to grips with such prodigious choices.

The food scene in LA has changed markedly. The food truck explosion offers not only excellent high end food, but with the added bonus of being on a budget as well. One of the most famous is the Kogi BBQ truck, under the direction of Chef Roy Choi, which serves up gourmet fusion Korean Mexican tacos to discerning Angelenos. The food truck platform has evolved and if it's a late night grilled cheese sandwich, taco chaat or a lobster roll which satiates your hunger, it's all within easy reach.  

If something a little more refined takes your fancy LA has it all. Whether you want Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Japanese, French, Italian, farm-to-table, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, zero carb, healthy, unhealthy, it's all there. Yes La La Land, a very apt moniker by the way, will actually render you into a state of unconsciousness, a food coma in fact, with this dizzying array of options. My never-ending bucket list of restaurants in LA just keeps growing every time I visit. All food aficionados will head straight to Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller and Nobu Matsuhisa establishments, but there's a Japanese inspired restaurant Hinoki and the Bird, which has a fabulous cocktail menu, many of them being fruit inspired. The food is very tactile and our senses are heightened by the use of innovative cooking methods. The lobster roll is genuinely a rave for your tastebuds. The citrus, basil piquancy of the lobster is the antithesis of the charcoaled bread roll. Sublime!

Gjelina is a favourite farm-to-table restaurant in a health obsessed corner of LA. The eggplant caponata on toast with burrata, pine nuts and balsamic is a mandatory choice as far as I'm concerned. Its big, bold, brash flavours are complemented by the delicate, creamy burrata. Bottega Louie is a no-reservations buzzing downtown Italian restaurant with a French patisserie, housed in a palatial Romanseque revival style building. Be prepared for sizeable portions, huge crowds and a cacophony of chefs, waiters and diners, but Bottega Louie has worked out the formula for success. Despite the grandiose, imposing, stately decor, the restaurant is very moderately priced. For appetisers, you absolutely must get the crab beignets...totally addictive! You have to order the thin-crusted Italian style pizza in any flavour that takes your fancy, but the proscuitto di Parma with burrata and rapini will have you reminiscing long after you've left. And if you don't have any room left for dessert, you can always buy the pastries, cakes or macarons, lined up in glass cases with military precision. LA has too many convivial restaurants for me to visit, and on leaving this extraordinary food city I suffer from separation anxiety; from my son of course! What else? 

I want to share a very simple recipe that I created for my love of burrata, the most delicious Southern Italian cheese. Burrata is a Puglian speciality and has an outer shell of mozzarella and the inside is filled with ribbons of mozzarella and cream (stracciatella), which gives it that rich, buttery, creamy texture. Burrata used to be quite difficult to find, so you can't imagine how thrilled I am, that I can now buy fresh burrata from my local Waitrose. This simple salad with heirloom tomatoes, avocado and topped with torn soft burrata is embellished with my coriander and pistachio pesto and it is a fresh salad to enjoy the last hurrah of summer.

Heirloom Tomato, Avocado & Burrata Salad with Coriander & Pistachio Pesto

Serves 4

  • 400g Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes
  • 1 Avocado
  • 200g Burrata Cheese
  • 35g Coriander
  • Handful of Pistachio Nuts
  • 1 Clove Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated
  • 75ml Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste

Method

  • Make the pesto by blitzing the coriander, pistachio nuts and olive oil in a herb mill, food processor or even a pestle and mortar. Once done, place into a small bowl.
  • Fry the chopped garlic in a frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil, until it starts to turn golden, which should take a couple of minutes. Add into the coriander mixture and add the parmesan cheese. Taste and add a little salt if needed. Set this aside.
  • Chop the tomatoes into bite-size pieces and arrange them onto a platter.
  • Slice the avocado and add them to the tomato platter.
  • Roughly tear the burrata and place randomly onto the platter.
  • Drizzle the pesto and a little extra olive oil and serve.

Tips

  • Heirloom or heritage tomatoes are available in most supermarkets. They are colourful and their flavour is superior. Sustainable farming methods are used to grow them.
  • If you do not like coriander, then you can substitute it for basil to make the pesto.