This is another meal that was inspired by John’s and my first visit to our favorite pub in Vancouver. On that first visit, John discovered a sudden fondness for televised hockey games, and I discovered how much I could love a mushroom salad.
That night, we sampled a number of small plates that sounded interesting to us. In addition to the edamame and bacon hummus, we also shared a charcuterie plate, a bowl of velvety fresh pea and creme fraiche soup, and this salad. Admittedly, there was a lot of bread involved with the hummus and charcuterie plate, but we honestly didn’t think we’d ordered that much food. Nonetheless, the waitress definitely made us feel like fat Americans when she asked us whether she should hold off on entering each of our orders until after we’d eaten a preceding course to determine whether we had enough room. Embarrassed, we agreed to the gradual pace, but started getting our nerve back when she asked us whether we were sure we had enough room for the salad. Seriously? Is a salad ever that heavy that two people can’t share it? Yeah– that just inspired us to order dessert on top of everything else.
The waitress had nothing to worry about on our behalf– the salad was delicious but light as air. The mushrooms were lightly sautéed and served on top of crisp iceberg and romaine lettuces with little dollops of goat cheese. The dressing, no surprise since this is Canada, was a maple glaze– a hint of sweetness that meshed perfectly with earthy mushrooms. All that talk about whether we’d have room for a salad made me think about how I could make this a sturdy but still refreshing entrée salad at home.
In my version, I opted for slightly bitter but more hearty greens: radicchio, endive, and fresh spinach. To boost up the flavors of the mushrooms, I roasted them in the oven so that their edges got crisp and the earthy mushrooms would also have a light nutty flavor. My dressing keeps the sweet touch of maple syrup but is spiced a bit more with shallots. Finally, to add a little bit of interesting texture, I sprinkled some puff rice (aka rice crispies) on top– sounds strange, I suppose, but the crunch was welcome and this was an easier solution than my original plan for puffed barley. (I’ll reserve deep-frying barley to get that nice puff to the professionals.) Now this is a salad that is refreshing yet hearty, something that can hold up as a meal all on its own without weighing you down.
Note: The ingredients below are enough to make two entrée sized salads or 4 first course salads. If you want to make this even heartier, top off each salad with a poached egg.
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/8 tsp salt, pinch of pepper
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 4 oz oyster mushrooms
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1 small head radicchio
- 3 bunches endive
- 1/2 bunch fresh spinach, stems trimmed off
- 5 radishes, sliced into thin rounds
- 2 oz goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons rice crispies cereal
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chiffonade
Add the shallots to the cider vinegar in the bottom of a small bowl to give the shallots time to mellow. Let this sit while you put together the rest of the salad.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sprinkle the mushrooms in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on about 1/2 tsp kosher or other coarse salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. Using your hands, mix the mushrooms and restore to a single layer. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the edges of the mushrooms are crispy and light brown.
While mushrooms are roasting, wash and spin dry your salad greens and plate. Sprinkle on the radish rounds and dollop as much goat cheese as you wish. To the shallots and cider vinegar, add the maple syrup, and whisk in the olive oil, then adjust salt and pepper to taste. Distribute mushrooms evenly between salad plates and top with basil chiffonade. Drizzle dressing over salads then finally, sprinkle the rice crispies on top of each salad.