Thu Jan 13, 2011
As expected, the holidays have left more than few additional pounds reading on the scale, which is on top of all that I amassed last year. Looking at me you may not be able to tell, but my sister-in-law hit the nail on the head when she labeled me a "skinny fat person." Sure, I'm still fitting into medium shirts (arguably) and 32" jeans (after mastering the art of sucking-in), but I know all too well the truth that lays underneath. So that means it's time for a salad. Salad, what? No meat, what what what??!? Yes, that's right, at least once this year I'll sit down and consume something healthy for me, but it's sure as hell is still going to be grilled!
My biggest problem with salads is not that I don't like them—I've made and consumed some really stellar salads—but that they often leave me hungry after all is said and done, usually equating to a post-meal bag of chips. To combat this I wanted to beef up the salad, but sans-beef, so I turned to the mighty portobello.
My fungi-loving wife made the portobello my first foray into the world of mushroom eating by tempting me with phrases like "it's meaty" and "it's just like a steak." For the 'shroom hater and meat lover, these were not the best choice of words, as I was left wholly unconvinced on first taste. Since then, I'm come to see what she was getting at, the portobello is a meal in itself with a heartiness and quality that can loosely be compared to a small piece of meat, but with the earthy flavor the spongy texture of a mushroom. Also, like a steak, it's pretty awesome when grilled.
When I staid the salad was going to be grilled, I meant it, even down to the greens. I was thrilled when I got a grill basket last Christmas as a gift, but it quickly became my least used accessory—there just didn't seem to be any good use for it. Finally, I was given one with this recipe, which called for slightly wilted spinach, the absolute perfect use for a grill basket. Tossed with a little oil, it didn't take long for the heat of the grill to start working its magic on the baby spinach.
Now the salad had it's "meat," it's base, and a dressing, all that was missing was a little crunch. Not to waste any remaining heat on the grill, I gave a handful of walnuts a nice toasting in a cast iron skillet placed on the grill.
Ah, the final product, a lovely looking salad if I do say so myself. It was also mighty fine for a winter meal. The warm spinach, hearty portobello, and crunchy walnuts all did what good salads do best, create a sea of texture and flavors that come into harmony while being eaten. The best part about this salad was it was filling enough that I didn't find myself raiding the cupboards for a sinful snack afterward. Now only if I didn't get an assignment to do a week's worth of wing recipes (not that I'd ever complain about that!), I might actually loose some of that weight.
Grilled Wilted Spinach and Portobello Salad
Adapted from Grilling & Roasting by Chuck Williams
1 lb fresh portobellos, scrubbed clean and stems removed
1/4 cup safflower oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup walnuts
10 oz spinach, stems removed
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1. Light one chimney full of charcoal. While the charcoal is lighting, brush the mushrooms with the safflower oil and sprinkle with the sage and pepper, set aside.
2. Whisk together the walnut oil, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.
3. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Place a cast iron skillet on the grill. When heated up, place the walnuts in the skillet and cook until lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring nuts frequently. Remove the skillet from the grill and coarsely chop the walnuts.
4. Place the mushrooms on the grill, gill side down, and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until browned and just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from the grill and slice into 1/4 inch strips.
5. Place the spinach leaves in a grill basket, and sprinkle with 1/2 of the the vinaigrette. Place the basket on the grill and cook until the leave are slightly wilted, about 3 minutes on each side.
6. To assemble the salad, place 1/4 of the spinach leaves on each plate, add a few strips of the mushrooms, sprinkle with the walnuts, and dress with remaining vinaigrette to taste.