We love to cook here at the farm (in case you couldn’t tell), but life still gets in the way sometimes. We have kids, jobs, community, family, the garden and just every day stuff that needs to get done (and baseball starts soon). And we are certainly not complaining (life is good), it just means we have less time than we would like to cook. That is why we make a point to always have (and look for) quick, easy one-plate dinners that use common ingredients. And this salad is one of those dishes. You can get the ingredients at almost any market, it takes maybe 20-30 minutes to make, it tastes great and sneaks in some veggies.
And it shouldn’t be a surprise that this recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot in Paris” cookbook. Ina’s recipes tend to use common, fresh ingredients and subs simple preparations over complex technique. And while purists may howl at times (don’t purists howl about everything?), her recipes do work. And as an ex-caterer, Garten’s recipes tend to require less extra time and prep than most. With that in mind, if we want to adapt a basic dish, Garten’s recipes are often where we start. And with this dish of warm sautéed cremini mushrooms and dressing over a bed of arugula and prosciutto, garnished with parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes and parsley, we didn’t have to change all that much. The whole dish is one big “umami-bomb”, what’s not to like? (Unless you are a vegetarian, then just sub caramelized shallots or onion for the prosciutto).
But we do make a few significant changes to the recipe that, we think, improve the dish. Firstly, Ina tells you not to wash the mushrooms, but brush them clean instead, so they don’t absorb water. While many “old-school” chefs will tell you to brush, many current food-science oriented cooks like Alton Bron and Harold McGee have run many experiments showing that you can, and should, wash mushrooms. They just don’t soak up that much water and what they soak up will cook out. Save yourself 20 minutes of mind-numbing, ineffective brushing and wash those mushrooms. Secondly, Ina has you cook the mushrooms for just a few minutes, but to really get the golden brown, meaty flavor and texture out of the mushrooms you need to sauté them longer, more like 10-15 minutes. Take your time with the mushrooms and you will be rewarded, besides you have the 20 extra minutes you saved by washing the mushrooms.
As for assembling the dish, this is as easy as it gets. Rinse and dry some arugula (you could sub baby spinach), place it on the plates and drape over a few slices of prosciutto. Cut some slivers of parmesan cheese and dice a few tablespoons of sun-dried tomatoes. Rinse and dry a few leaves of Italian parsley. Meanwhile, as you finish sautéing the mushrooms, add some sherry or cider vinegar to make a warm dressing. Taste the dressing and adjust vinegar and seasoning and then spoon the mushrooms and dressing over the greens. Garnish with the parm, sun-dried tomatoes and parsley. Season one last time, if you like, and serve. It really is that easy. And this dish really is that good.