Friday, July 20, 2012

Warm Mushroom & Prosciutto Salad with Pecorino

An elegant and delicious warm salad of sautéed wild oyster, shiitake and cremini mushrooms on a bed of wild arugula and julienned celery hearts is given a decidedly Italian twist with the addition of shaved Pecorino cheese, a fold of Prosciutto di Parma and finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and splash of Aceto Balsamico di Modena, the highly prized vinegar from Emilia-Romagna. True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes that's barrel-aged for a minimum of twelve years, resulting in a thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian, and can cost between $150 and $400 per bottle.

Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Modena

A lovely birthday gift from an old friend, I splurged and added a splash of his Balsamico di Modena on this wonderful Warm Mushroom & Prosciutto Salad with Pecorino. The salad is all about contrasts: the crisp against the luscious, the warm against the cool, and the nutty salty nature of the cheese against the sweet herbal quality of the shaved celery and peppery arugula. A traditional Italian salad of the utmost simplicity, it's the kind of dish that would be served after a large full meal, somewhere in the hot southern tip of Italy. Perfetto!

Warm Mushroom & Prosciutto Salad with Pecorino 
Serves 8

1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb mixed mushrooms: oyster, shiitake, cremini, enoki, cleaned and sliced
Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp aged balsamic vinegar, to taste
4 inner celery ribs, shaved paper thin using a mandoline

1/4 cup celery leaves, for garnish
8 cups wild arugula
6 oz Pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (1 1/2 cups)
6 oz thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chopped mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the shaved celery, wild arugula, sautéed mushrooms and toss gently. Transfer the salad to a large platter or individual serving plates, top with some shaved Pecorino, a fold of prosciutto and garnish with a few celery leaves and some fresh ground black pepper.