Raw beef carpaccio is not an item that has ever been on my weeknight dinner rotation, nor on any my professional menus. In fact, until last Friday evening, it had been many years since this delicacy had even touched my lips . So, why has carpaccio been occupying a pesky spot in my brain this week? Well, it is because my lovely dinner companions at Bottega restaurant in Birmingham, AL ordered it as one of our appetizers. At the time, I was much more interested in the crispy fritto mixto and the creamy parmesan soufflé that were en route to our cozy corner table. While all of the offerings were impeccable in their own right, it was the memory of the carpaccio that lingered the following day. The cool, thin slices of beef, peppery arugula and sharp parmesan shavings were a perfect trio. But wait, there was something else. A thin shmear of horseradish cream added just the right pop of heat to the rest of the ingredients, binding them together in perfect harmony. How could I bring these flavors into my day to day life?
The arugula, parmesan and a lightened up horseradish cream were no-brainers, but what could I substitute for the thinly sliced raw beef? I toyed with the idea of seared rare tenderloin, but that is certainly not a practical week night substitute. Rare deli roast beef? Absolutely not! Smoked salmon? Perhaps a good match with the arugula and horseradish, but not so much with the cheese. The answer was clear, It had to be mushrooms. Meaty portabellas are much more economical than beef and would be the perfect fit with the rest of the ingredients.
The result of all this pondering, is my Mushroom "Carpaccio" Salad. This is a simple and elegant salad that is suitable for a weeknight dinner or a special occasion. I plan on enjoying this salad often, and when I do, I will fondly recall the wonderful evening spent with a fun group of my foodie friends.
Mushroom "Carpaccio" Salad:
Yield: 2 first course sized salad
For the Salad:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 portabella mushrooms, about 6-8 ounces total
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
2 cups arugula
1/3 cup shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
2 red grape tomatoes, quartered
2 yellow grape tomatoes, quartered
For the Dressing:
1/4 cup light olive oil mayonnaise
1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1) Heat a non-stick skillet, brushed with a light coating of olive oil over medium-high heat.
2) While pan heats, carefully slice the mushroom caps into 1/8" rounds. Each mushroom should yield about five rounds.
3) Brush each side of the mushroom slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add slices, in a single layer to the hot skillet and cook 1-2 minutes per side, until edges are browned and middle is cooked through. This may need to be done in batches, depending on the size of your pan.
|Mushroom slices sizzling away in a hot skillet|
5) While mushrooms are cooling, combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to incorporate. You will have more dressing than you will need for this salad. Leftover dressing may be kept refrigerated for up to 3 days.
6) Assemble the salad by drizzling 1 tablespoon of dressing over a salad plate. Shingle 5 cooled mushrooms in a circular pattern in the center of the plate. Top mushrooms with one cup of arugula and sprinkle with shaved cheese and chopped chives. Arrange quartered red and yellow tomatoes around plate. Repeat on a separate plate with remaining ingredients.