This salad is delicious in the spring with the first asparagus of the season, but equally delicious in the fall with autumn mushrooms and the asparagus found on sale this week for $1.99 a bunch!
Whatever the season, this salad comes together very easily and looks impressive, which I always like. It is also a rather economical salad (if you keep an eye out for it asparagus is not so pricey, and the profusion of mushrooms above come from only two Royal trumpets), but it looked and tasted like a restaurant salad to me. I had planned on cooking the mushrooms in pumpkin seed oil rather than olive oil for some additional forest flavor, and contemplated adding some diced shallot or chopped herbs to the mushroom pan, but eventually decided to keep things simple so that the duo of vegetal flavors would really shine.
The plateful above served two very generously as an appetizer salad and I scarfed down an entire plate of the same as a dinner salad for one.
1 lb medium sized asparagus
2 Royal trumpet mushrooms
1 Tbsp + 2 tsps olive oil
1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400.
Prep the asparagus stalks by snapping the stems off where they break naturally. If you end up with some woody stalks -- feel free to use your vegetable peeler and whittle them down a bit.
Place the asparagus in one layer on a foil lined baking tray and drizzle with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 12-15 minutes until the asparagus stalks are tender and cooked through but still firm. No mushy asparagus here, please! At the half way mark, either use tongs to turn the asparagus over to ensure even cooking or, like I do, shake the pan wildly to redistribute the spears.
While the asparagus is cooking, prepare the mushrooms by slicing them lengthwise into thin slices. A mandoline is great here.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan and heat until shimmering over medium high heat. Add the mushroom slices to the pan, in one row if possible, salt lightly, and cook for a minute without disturbing the slices. Flip them and repeat. The edges will start to caramelize. Lower the heat and keep cooking until the mushrooms are cooked through, another couple of minutes. Keep flipping and moving the mushrooms as you want some caramelization, not burnt mushrooms.
When the mushrooms have softened and the edges are caramelized, add two teaspoons of the Balsamic vinegar to the pan and stir to combine. You want a thin glaze of vinegar on all the mushrooms. Remove from the heat.
To serve, drizzle the remaining vinegar over the asparagus and top with some of the mushrooms. Some freshly ground pepper would not come amiss, if you were so inclined.
A simple recipe, but an effective one.