Inside the pages of the Gastronomicon-Warm Mushroom Salad

With spring upon us and the ebbing cold weather our grocery stores are seeing the arrivals of the first spring harvest of vegetables.  This is an opportune time to indulge in a post winter fat gaining cleanse and clean out our stomachs, our arteries and our bowels.  I myself am extremely excited at the notion that this year is my first year at attempting urban farming.  Living in the heart of the St Louis it is difficult to locate a space large enough to plant a small vegetable garden.  I am lucky enough to live next to my parents who have a back yard that is just perfect for a small garden bed.  Plus with the abundant excess of milk crates found at local gas stations, grocery stores and flea markets I also am able to do small scale container planting on my own back porch.

It seems that every spring I have a tendency to shake off the shackles of MEAT!!! and don the garbs of vegetarianism.  I dont know exactly what it is about spring that just makes me want to enjoy a plate of greens over a burger.  More then likely its the impending onset of summer and having  lived in a non AC apartment for the majority of my adult life the idea of a hot kitchen is not appealing.  This year will be no different even though I now have central air and an apartment that keeps cool I still wont want to spend any extended amounts of time in the kitchen.  So to the veggies I go with the gusto and reverberant joy of a squirrel to horde away for the next six to seven months the bounty of my garden and the local farmers markets.

One of the things about eating vegetarian is having enough of a variety to ensure that you are maintaining your nutritional needs each day.  That means vitamins, proteins and minerals OH MY!!!!  One thing I struggled with initially during my 3 year stint as a vegetarian following my bariatric surgery was protein.  I never seemed to get enough protein.  I also wasn’t as adventurous with my cooking so my diet was rather limited.  Now, the second time around I have read up and resourced more in depth what is need to one ensure i don’t become malnourished and 2 that I don’t hit any stalls with weight loss due to protein deficiency.  So before venturing into the world of vegetarianism please consult a registered dietician to ensure that you are not causing harm to yourself as you start your path to a healthier meat free/reduced meat diet.

Warm Mushroom Salad with mixed Greens 

This is a simple herbaceous salad that offers amazing mouth feel to those who are just starting out on the veggie brick road.  Mushrooms are often called the steaks of the fungus world because they offer enough of textural difference and “meaty” taste that they can often be subbed out in many of your meat recipes like stroganoff, sloppy joes, meatloaf, burgers.  The one thing I enjoy most about mushrooms are the fact that they are high in minerals.  One such important nutrient is selenium. While meat, seafood, grains, and nuts have excellent levels of the mineral, mushrooms are the only produce that have high levels of it, so they are especially important to include in your diet if you are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. I.e they are good eats and should be considered a stable in your diet plan. Now to the recipe which hey is the main reason why you are here right?

  • 8-10 oz your choice mushrooms {with the exception of white button mushrooms.  Think shiitake, portobello, oyster.  The meatier the better)
  • 1/2 diced white/yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced to a paste
  • greens: can be any lettuce, dark green, leafy green you want!
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • coarse sea salt (to taste)
  • fresh cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons favorite crumbled cheese (feta, goat, bleu, etc.) or shaved Parmesan 
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice 
  • croustini (optional)
  • prosciutto (optional)

In a medium sized fry skillet heat on medium heat 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  We are going to dismiss the myth that the addition of olive oil will help increase the smoke factor of butter.  Rubbish.  Regardless of the addition of oil at 375 degrees evaporation of water in the butter occurs causing the release of butter fats and milk proteins which can cause smoking.  The addition of oil personally just imparts an additional depth of flavor.  You can choose to omit this if necessary.  Once butter is melted and foaming add your mushrooms and onion and toss to coat.  Allow this to sweat for around 5 minutes until onions start to become translucent in color and then add 1 teaspoon of salt.  We don’t necessarily want to saute the vegetables as we dont want to impart any additional coloring. Then add the garlic paste and gently fold in.  Once you begin to smell garlic allow to sweat for an additional minute while you make your dressing.

In a medium non-reactive bowl (preferably glass) add your lemon juice (fresh squeezed preferably-juice those yellow orbs of love!!!!) and your salt and pepper and then slowly whisk in your olive oil to create an emulsion, or you can place it all in a jar, seal and shake the fuck out of it!!!! Work out those frustrations plus your biceps at the same time 🙂  In a separate bowl add your greens, micro greens, dandelion leaves and slowly pour the dressing along the circumference of the bowl.  This allows the ability to allow the dressing to go to the bottom of the bowl giving you the opportunity to gently coat your greens.  We don’t want them swimming in dressing so be gentle with this.  Once dressed sprinkle with another teaspoon of sea salt and cracked black pepper before transferring to serving dishes.

Divide your greens into two bowls and top with your mushrooms.  At this point you will add whatever cheese you like or if you are wanting to add an additional protein, thin slices of prosciutto.  I enjoy a chèvre (goat cheese) with mine but it’s your personal preference.  Pair it up with a couple slices of toasted croustini rubbed with raw garlic and enjoy.  This dish can be served as the salad course or the main entree and can be paired with your choice of white wine either dry or sweet or paired with a rose.

One of the interesting experiences I had with this salad was that before I was able to enjoy it I smelled beef stroganoff.  It was the most surreal thing and the meatiness of the oyster mushrooms satisfied the craving I had for beef.  I hope you enjoy making this and eating it with your family as I did 🙂

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