Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter Salad with Beets and Shiitake Mushrooms

This post first appeared at The Locavore Way, author Amy Cotler's blog.
It didn’t feel like the dormant season when I drizzled balsamic syrup over local baby greenhouse spinach from The Berry Patch, wilted in garlic oil, with storage beets from Farm at Miller’s Crossing, roasted up until tender, then topped it all with winter market shiitake mushrooms and Rawson Brook Farm goat cheese.

Make ahead tip — I like to keep the components of this salad on hand for an easy-to-assemble vegetarian supper. Then, when you are ready to eat, all you have to do is heat the mushrooms, wilt the spinach and assemble the salad.

Serves 2 generously, but is easily multiplied and makes a stunning platter, despite the picture here:)

2 medium beets
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
generous handful of shiitake mushrooms
pinch of dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound spinach
3 heaping tablespoons fresh goat cheese
About 2 tablespoons brown sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the beets loosely in foil. Roast until they can easily be pierced with a fork, about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours.  Let the beets cool and slip off the skins. Slice and toss with a little balsamic vinegar, just to coat lightly, and a pinch of salt. (This can be done up to 4 days beforehand.) Set aside. (Note that roasting time depends on size of your beets. I had one huge beet, almost the size of soccer ball, so I cut it into wedges and roasted it for 3 hours!)

2) Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Toss the caps in the thyme, a pinch of salt and olive oil to coat lightly. (You can add a bit of the minced garlic if you like.) Let marinate for 30 minutes. Lay out on a baking sheet, caps up, and roast along with the beets until they are soft and fragrant, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn them over on the baking sheet. Fill each with a tiny touch of the goat cheese. Reserve.

3)  Combine 1/4 cup balsamic and the brown sugar in a small sauce pan. Simmer until reduced by about 1/2, making sure it doesn’t burn.Reserve. While the vegetables are roasting, simmer about 2 tablespoons of oil with the garlic, just until fragrant but not brown, about 30 seconds. Remove from the stove.

4) When you are ready to eat, place the shiitakes in the oven to warm and melt the cheese. (You can warm the beets too, but it isn’t necessary.) Heat the wok with the garlic oil over medium heat. The minute it starts to warm, drop in the spinach. Toss it with tongs just until it starts to wilt, about 1 minute. Season with salt to taste. Arrange on a platter or two plates. Top with the sliced beets and warmed shiittakes, with their caps up and, if you like, a few spoonfuls of goat cheese. Drizzle with the balsamic syrup and serve immediately.

A note on the shiitakes If you cook the shiitakes longer with the cheese, they’ll get chewy and even a tad crisp. My mother adored this!

A longtime advocate of local eating, Amy Cotler is the author of The Locavore Way and founding director of Berkshire Grown, a food initiative that received international recognition as a model for local food advocacy. She now consults, teaches, and lectures on food and farm-to-table issues. She worked as the Web food forum host for The New York Times, and her food articles have been published in numerous periodicals, including Fine Cooking, Kitchen Garden, Cook’s, Family Fun, Self, Gastronomique, and Orion. Her five cookbooks include The Secret Garden Cookbook, My Little House Cookbook, and Fresh From the Farm: The Massachusetts Farm to School Cookbook, which is available free online. Amy has developed close to 1,000 recipes, including many for the revision of The Joy of Cooking. She’s taught at the Institute for Culinary Education and the Culinary Institute of America, where she also researched and wrote teaching text for their professional cookbook. She lives in Western Massachusetts. Reach her at

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