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Shiitake mushrooms are not only delicious, they’re quite hearty. Unlike other mushrooms, they keep their meaty texture when cooked, and their flavor lends a particular vividness to the asparagus and grilled peppers. Cremini mushrooms will work, too, though I prefer the shiitake.
• 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1-1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
• 1 red bell pepper
• 1 yellow bell pepper
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
• 2 tablespoons minced garlic
• 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
• 2 tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch pieces (rough dice)
• Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
• 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
To make the pomegranate vinaigrette
Whisk the pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon each of black pepper and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil. Season the dressing to taste with more salt and black pepper.
To make the salad
Cut the asparagus in half crosswise, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook just until it turns bright green, about 30 seconds. Immediately transfer the asparagus to a large bowl of ice water. Let stand until cold. Drain the asparagus and pat completely dry.
Roast the red and yellow bell peppers over a gas flame until lightly charred all over, about 10 minutes. Enclose the peppers in a plastic bag until cool enough to handle. Peel, seed, and slice the peppers into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Pat the peppers dry to remove any excess liquid.
Melt the butter and oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and sauté until the liquid from the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms and garlic are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl and cool to room temperature. Add the cooked asparagus, roasted peppers, onion, and tomatoes to the mushrooms. Cover and refrigerate until the salad is cold.
Toss the salad with enough vinaigrette to coat, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound the salad on a platter. Sprinkle with the basil and serve.
Immersing asparagus in ice water stops it from cooking and prevents it from discoloration. To keep the colors bright, toss the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.
Recipe from ZOV: RECIPES AND MEMORIES FROM THE HEART by Zov Karamardian
(March 2005; 2nd printing March 2008; $35.00/hardcover)
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