I know I haven’t been posting too regularly about what’s been going on in my kitchen, but hopefully I will get caught up now that I am post-vacations and post-annual-thesis-committee-meeting (went well! thank goodness!). I have a few delicious morsels I hadn’t had time to share with you before I threw my sunscreen, bug spray, and bikinis into a suitcase and headed to Barbados, and of course, there is still a post about Japan that will eventually be written… but for now, there is this tasty warm mushroom salad.
Mushrooms are one of those ingredients that I didn’t particularly care for as a child, but have grown to love and even crave as an adult. My family would often eat these big brown mushrooms (I once asked my mom what they are actually called and she told me “Brown Mushrooms”) that are dried and sold in Asian food stores. They are rehydrated and were included in soups, stir frys, or chopped up in fried rice. They had a strong taste that I am still not fond of, but I have happily found many other varieties of mushrooms that I fully enjoy.
This warm mushroom salad was hearty and filling for a salad, thanks to the earthy taste and dense texture of the sautéed mushrooms. I added some crisp bacon chunks (hello lovelies) for extra indulgence and the pretense of nutritious protein, and shaved parmeggiano reggiano, though I think a tangy soft cheese such as Gorgonzola or blue cheese would also be fantastic. I found that very little of the dressing was actually needed, partly because I don’t like my salads drenched in dressing, and partly because there was enough buttery juices from the cooked mushrooms to dress the salad. Since the dressing contains the tangy acidity, I would either reduce the amount of oil to make the dressing a bit more concentrated or try to drain the cooked mushrooms before tossing the salad together. It’s a bit more intensive than your average salad, what with the COOKING and ROASTING and all (does that defy the definition of a SALAD then?), but it’s definitely worth it.
Warm Mushroom Salad
adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1/2 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons finely diced shallots
3 tablespoons sherry or a white wine vinegar
9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 pounds mushrooms (cremini or a mix of wild mushrooms), cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces salad greens such as frisé, arugula or a mix of your choice
1 cup mix of fresh herbs (optional) such as chives, tarragon 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or a couple pinches of dried
1/4 cup sliced shallots
1/4 pound pecorino (I used parmeggiano, but think a tangy soft cheese would be delicious as well)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 8 to 10 minutes, rolling them around once or twice to make sure they toast evenly. Rub nuts in a dish towel (I just used my fingers) to remove skins then let cool. Chop the hazelnuts coarsely.
- Whisk the shallots, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a bowl and let sit for five minutes (this will soften and almost pickle the shallots), before whisking in 5 tablespoons olive oil.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter until the butter foams. Add half the mushrooms, half the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, until they’re softened but not limp (your cooking time will depend on the type of mushrooms you used).
- Transfer mushrooms to a plate then repeat with the second half. When they are cooked, return the first half of the mushrooms to the pan then toss in sliced shallots, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
- Spread salad greens on a plate. Sprinkle fresh herbs on top, if using. Spoon hot mushrooms over the salad greens. Pour three-quarters of the vinaigrette in the sauté pan and swirl it in the pan until heated. Season it with 1/4 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour over salad and toss carefully. Adjust to taste — you may need more salt, pepper, vinaigrette or even more sherry vinegar.
- Use a vegetable peeler to shave cheese over the salad. Sprinkle with hazelnuts. Serve immediately.