Mushroom ricotta salad.
I have to admit, I have not seen a salad quite like this. Have you? Maybe all those MFK Fisher books, Julia Child references and foodie shows are finally starting to pay off.
The sun was shinning and I wanted to dine al fresco but I wasn’t sure where to turn. After a chilly April, May brought in the warm air, toasty sunshine and my desire to be outdoors.
Carbs are becoming less prevalent on my plate and instead I have been opting for more greens. One particular sunny day I wanted something luxurious. Something to make me feel like this day, above all others, was a little different. I wanted decadence without the guilt. I wanted something entirely new but with what I had on hand – it is quarantine after all. Little did I know, I was about to make a salad that would become a new favourite. Mushroom ricotta salad.
Life in lockdown and social distancing has been quiet. It reminds me a lot of when I was on maternity leave. Somedays it feels like waiting, others it feels like time is an unstoppable mudslide.
I work from home because my son’s daycare has been shut down with no current signs of reopening. Our family run company functions from an at home office for now. My husband still works as he is in construction. So, as I said, life is quiet.
But one afternoon as my son slept during one of his 2-3 hour naps, I decided to treat myself with food. Not with sweets. Not with wine…that’s reserved for the evenings (almost every evening lately). And really, when I think back to it now a glass of local Tantalus Riesling would have made this lunch even better! But I wanted a meatless lunch. I wanted a vibrant green lunch that would aesthetically appease me as well as satiate my hunger.
This salad came to me as I stared at the fridge wondering what the hell to eat. Should I make a ham and cheese sandwich? No, I felt like something meatless. Maybe I could make an avocado toast? No, the avocado isn’t quite ripe enough.
But then I saw the asparagus, mushrooms (which where shrivelling and on their way out), and a single zucchini sitting at the bottom of the vegetable crisper. Waiting for something to happen, much as I was. I decided to take action.
I made it up as I went blending and layering cold and hot elements. Mushrooms should only ever be served sautéed in butter à la Julia Child. Asparagus should be blanched in boiling water then cooled using an ice bath. Spinach, in this case raw and catching all of the creaminess of the dressing at the bottom. Thin ribbons of zucchini has become a favourite of mine, quickly blanched enough for it to become pliable but never mushy.
But the topper is what really made this decadent. Two heaping tablespoons of ricotta. I had it left over from a manicotti recipe from the week prior and is an item I like to keep around as much as possible.
It makes lasagna extra creamy if you do it right. You can add it to cakes and muffins. Ricotta is good straight out of the container with a bit of sea salt and thick drizzles of black balsamic vinegar – from Modena, Italy if you can find it.
But for this recipe, because I like to make my own dressing, I recommend a good olive oil. How do you know if you have a good EVOO? I learned how to tell at Eataly in New York.
Take a small sip. Go on, just sip it from the lid or a teaspoon. Kind of slurp it. Suck it in through your lips and let it coat your pallet.
What do you taste?
You’ll know you have a good one if you find floral or peppery notes. But especially if there is a lingering spiciness at the back of your tongue. That’s how you know it is good. If it is a blank note. Just oil with very little taste then you must up your EVOO game! Unfortunately, most of the EVOOs in the shopping markets are in fact duds so go to a specialty store and get hooked up.
Otherwise, let me know if you try my Mushroom Ricotta Salad recipe and what you think in the comments below!
Now, I was having lunch while my son was napping. What kind of mother would I be if I had a glass (or two) at lunch? The answer: A mother in quarantine. But next time I would suggest a Riesling to pair with the tang of my lemony honey dijon dressing. One of my favourite local wineries, Tantalus, has an excellent Riesling that first came to mind: Or a Chardonnay would work with the buttery sauteed mushrooms as well. Feel free to have some fun with it!Print Recipe
Mushroom ricotta salad
Riesling or Chardonnay
- For the salad
1 small to medium zucchini
3 cups fresh baby spinach
3 cups sliced mushrooms (Crimini or white button will do)
2 cloves garlic
3-4 tbs salted butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 asparagus spears
5 fresh mint leaves (optional garnish)
2 heaping tbs of ricotta cheese
2 scallions diced white and green ends kept separately.
- For the dressing
3 tbs good olive oil
1 tbs dijon mustard
1-2 tbs honey
lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon
Kosher salt & pepper to taste
- Sauté the butter mushrooms and white scallion pieces until the water starts to cook away from the mushrooms. As they are turning brown add 2 crushed garlic cloves. At this point I might add another pat of butter if you find the pan needs it. Cook for another two minutes or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the thyme. You can also add oregano, sage or any other of your favourite herbs. Remove from heat once the mushrooms are brown and everything is well incorporated. Set aside.
- Take a carrot grater and slice long pieces of the zucchini so you’re left with ribbons.
- Bring water to a gentle boil and drop the asparagus in order to blanch. Meanwhile get a bowl of ice water for the asparagus so that you stop the cooking process. Once the asparagus is tender and bright green, but still has a nice crunch, remove from the water and place into the cold ice water.
- Keep the water at a gentle boil. Gently drop the zucchini ribbons in and wait about 1 minute. Remove and place into ice bath with asparagus. Drain and set on a paper towel.
- Make dressing
- Make the dressing. Place all dressing ingredients into a mason jar or a glass jar of your choice. Make sure the lid fits tight. Add kosher salt or sea salt, pepper. Shake vigorously. Taste and adjust. Sometimes I want it sweeter with more honey. Sometimes I want more lemon. It is up to you, chef!
- Get a serving bowl and put the raw spinach at the bottom. Lay the ribbons of zucchini over top. Sprinkle asparagus over the zucchini and spinach. Next lay the mushrooms down. Top with ricotta and sprinkle torn pieces of mint, green scallion pieces.
- Drizzle dressing over the ricotta, mushrooms and greens. Toss together if you like but I enjoyed digging in from there. Enjoy!