This salad is fresh, hearty, delicious and easy to throw together. It’s versatile enough to stand alone with a good loaf of country bread or as an accompaniment to other dishes. It pairs well with steak or chicken and a variety of pasta, soups and casseroles.
I’ve made this salad so many times and it never ceases to impress. The flavor created with these humble ingredients is amazing. This mushroom and herb salad is a reminder that the taste of simplicity can be as enjoyable and elegant as complex dishes. It’s earthy, hearty and rustic while also managing to offer bright, clean flavor.
Use high quality ingredients at peak freshness. When a dish is simply prepared using only a few ingredients, you need every ingredient to bring it’s “A” game and shine.
You want mushrooms to be firm and fleshy. No mushy spots. Herbs should be sturdy and crisp. Discard wilted or discolored leaves. Lemon should be a plump and have a shiny peel. The rind of the lemon is an important element of this dish. You want to be sure that none of the essential oil has dried up, you need it to lend intensity to the salad.
Extra virgin olive oil and Pecorino Romano need to be authentic and fresh so they don’t impart “off” flavors of rancidity. Lastly, you want to use accentuating salt and pepper. Freshly milled Tellicherry peppercorns add wonderful aroma and flavor. The use of flaked sea salt (such as Maldon) boosts flavor and adds texture.
A wonderful thing about this salad is the ingredients are easily grown and found at the grocery store year round. As always, I recommend using organic, locally sourced ingredients where possible.
Suggestions for Feasting
This salad pairs wonderfully with many hearty dishes of fall and winter. I like to serve it along side beef and poultry, especially roast chicken. The fresh flavors in this salad compliment the richness of pasta dishes such as alfredo or cacio e pepe.
In the warmer months, this is an excellent salad to take on a picnic or to a barbecue. I enjoy this salad on it’s own, with some freshly baked bread and a thin pat of butter. A cool crisp glass of Pinot Grigio is perfect here.
When I want a more intensely flavored salad, I like to add truffle flavor. I achieve this by using Pecorino Tartufo in place of the Pecorino Romano. Another option is to reduce the extra virgin olive oil to 3 tablespoons and add in 1 tablespoon of white truffle oil. Feel free to add more, just remember to taste as you go. Truffle is pungent, a little goes a long way.
If you want to add heft and spice, I recommend tossing the salad with a handful or two of fresh, baby arugula.
Fresh mushroom and herb salad is best served immediately or within a half hour of assembly. It will keep for up to two days in an airtight container in the refrigerator, however the texture becomes softer and the flavors meld to become reminiscent of marinated mushrooms.
My mouth is watering after all of this talk of fresh salad. I think I’m gonna go enjoy this recipe in one of the many ways recommended above and I think you should too.