Traditional salad spans seasonal appetites Entertaining: Early fall calls for food that's hearty but not heavy.

September 13, 1998|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

September marks the beginning of fall, but lingering warm temperatures remind me that summer does not always depart on schedule. Although I like to switch from lighter warm-weather menus to robust ones after Labor Day, I find that it is often too hot for heavier fare.

Several days ago, we invited a friend for lunch. I agonized over the meal, trying to find a balance between hearty and delicate accents. Then I remembered a main-course salad I had eaten in Paris. Sauteed wild mushrooms were mounded on a bed of mixed greens and drizzled with a lemon dressing. The assertive flavor of warm pan-fried girolles atop crisp greens was complemented by the refreshing citrus vinaigrette.

In my kitchen I substituted a mixture of dried porcinis and white mushrooms for the girolles. And, I added a garnish of crumbled bacon, thinly sliced sweet red onions and a few cooked green beans. I attempted to re-create the lemon dressing so that it was a close facsimile of the original.

This salad, which serves four as a main course, was delectable with tomato soup garnished with goat cheese and mint as an opener and fresh fruit for dessert. You can also divide the salad into six smaller portions and use them as a first course to begin a fall dinner.

Sauteed Mushrooms on a Bed of Mixed Greens

4 main course servings, or 6 first-course servings

fTC 1 cup (2/3-ounce) dried mushrooms (such as porcini)

1 cup hot water

4 strips bacon

8 ounces fresh white mushrooms, cleaned, thinly sliced through stems

salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

6 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 pound green beans, ends trimmed

6 cups mixed greens, such as mesclun, cleaned and torn into pieces

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Place dried mushrooms in small bowl, cover with hot water and let soak until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well in sieve lined with paper towels and reserve soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms coarsely and set aside.

Cook bacon in heavy, medium skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove and cool, then crumble. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons drippings in skillet and place over medium-high heat. When hot, add fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add reserved mushrooms and soaking liquid and cook, stirring, until all liquid has evaporated, 4 to 5 minutes. Taste and season mushrooms generously with salt and pepper. (Mushrooms can be prepared 2 to 3 hours ahead. Leave uncovered, at cool room temperature and reheat, stirring, when needed.)

For dressing, place garlic, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, mustard, generous 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in nonreactive bowl and whisk well. Whisk in oil. (Dressing can be made 2 to 3 hours ahead. Cover and leave at cool room temperature. Whisk well before using.)

Cook beans in boiling salted water to cover until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Place in colander under cold running water to cool, then dry and set aside. (Beans can be prepared 2 to 3 hours ahead.)

To assemble, toss greens, red onions and beans in mixing bowl with half of dressing and arrange on 4 dinner plates. Divide mushrooms evenly and mound over greens. Drizzle mushrooms with remaining dressing and garnish with crumbled bacon.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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