Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Little Composure

Composed salads often seem like they are much too complicated to attempt on a weeknight. I think of them as the beautiful French Salade Niçiose or the Italian antipasto platters; a very big production and a very big expense. But it doesn't have to be so. Tonight I prepared an easy fall composed salad using spinach, mushrooms and one of my favorite grains of late, Quinoa.

Although it is certainly NOT local (it is imported from South America, but is organic and free-trade certified) Quinoa, pronounced Keen-wah, is delicious and chock full of nutrients including protein. It does require rinsing to remove some bitterness, but it is as simple to prepare as rice, and kind of has a couscous-like texture. Its small, nutty grains can take on a variety of flavors, and I usually prepare it using some kind of stock, be it vegetable, chicken or beef.

While I have a fantasy of traipsing through the forest, foraging for wild mushrooms (which are "in season" in many parts of the country), I think I will have to let it go for now because I don't have a nearby forest to traipse in and I am pretty sure that I would be too afraid to try any mushrooms that I found in the wild. But if you are lucky enough to still have an open farmers market, perhaps you can find some mushrooms there, gathered or grown by professionals. I have never seen them at ours, unfortunately, and I had to settle for ones from Trader Joes.

The dish is simple; a bed of wilted baby spinach topped with some Mushroom Asiago Chicken Sausage (from TJ's), surrounded by lovely grains of quinoa and sautéed mushrooms, with a sprinkle of asiago cheese. It was a yummy and perfect dish for our Indian Summer; yes, it is STILL 90 degrees here!

Warm Spinach, Quinoa, Sausage, and Mushroom Salad
serves 2

1 bag of baby spinach
1 pound of assorted mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, sliced into rings
1 T butter
olive oil
2 links of Chicken Mushroom Asiago sausage
1 C quinoa
2 C chicken broth
Asiago cheese (a small handful)

Rinse quinoa in a sieve under warm, running water. Boil 2 C chicken broth (or use 2 C of water and 2 t of Better than Bouillon). Add quinoa and return to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

Meanwhile, saute mushrooms and shallot in butter over medium low heat until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. When quinoa is finished, toss with mushrooms and shallot mixture. Wipe out the mushroom pan and add about 1 T olive oil. Sauté sausages, halved lengthwise, until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes a side. Remove sausages and set aside.

Add about 1 T more of olive oil to pan and put in baby spinach. Using tongs stir spinach around until it wilts slightly. This will take less than a minute. To plate salad, place spinach in the middle and top with sausage. Spoon quinoa and mushroom mixture around the spinach. Sprinkle with asiago cheese and serve.

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