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Wilted Spinach Salad with Sesame-Marinated Mushrooms

Posted Oct 19 2009 10:03pm

One of the great parts about living on the edge of Atlanta, as we do, poised between the city's mammoth metropolis to our south, into which Zach drives for most of his clinical rotations, and the rural mountains to our north, where I work, is there are so many delights waiting to be discovered - from a new hiking trail in the mountains to a new pub downtown... We discovered our recent favorite downtown hangout purely by accident, while attempting to visit The Brick Store Pub, which we discovered with relative ease thanks to its consistent rating as one of Atlanta's top gastropubs. With over 200 exquisite beers on tap, The Brick Store still holds an unparalleled place in our hearts, but it can get frightfully crowded on the weekends... which led us, one Saturday night a few weeks ago, to Zucca - better known as 'the pub next door to Brick Store.' Even on the weekends, Zucca never has a wait for a cozy booth, likely because they are somewhat the lonely step-cousin of the more glamorous Brick Store, but Zucca's eclectic, "bar next door" decor is endearing, and they have a perfectly lovely on tap selection as well. We've found ourselves drifting there with increasing frequency, but hadn't yet tried their pizza-themed menu, so when we decided to drive into downtown on Saturday for a late lunch, we headed straight to Zucca.

Despite the frightful wind and chilling drizzle that descended upon Georgia early Saturday morning, we braved a stroll around the East Court Square neighborhood shops before letting the wind blow us, gratefully, inside. After letting our hands thaw out a bit (as Southerners, we're somewhat sheepishly not used to the necessity of keeping winter gloves in the car ready for a moment's notice), we settled in contentedly with a Paulaner Hefeweizen for Zach and a locally brewed blueberry ale for me. The blueberry ale blew me away - it was a little light for my typical tastes, as I usually prefer a beer with a bit more of a stronger finish, but the blueberry notes were flawless, with just a hint of pure, sweet-tart fruitiness.

We then shared a Caesar salad, and I immediately fell in love with the pub's mismatched plates...
Caesar salads are so rich, and I'd forgotten to ask for the dressing on the side, so the salad was a bit more decadent than we'd planned, but still delicious...

Then, since we were splurging, we shared a small, personal-sized pizza with fresh basil and marinated mushrooms. Pure Pizza Heaven!!

We lingered over our lunch for hours, enjoying the simple pleasure of a weekend, one of the rare moments in this hectic life when time is truly our own...

(Zach concentrating very intently on a football game... :-)

Back home that night, when we felt it was time for a late, light supper, we were in the mood for something very light after our rich, creamy lunch... Since the wind was still howling fiercely, we decided on a salad - specifically, a warm salad!

Marinated shiitake mushrooms, wilted spinach, a tangy sesame dressing, giggling over a movie... Ah, I miss our weekend already.

Wilted Spinach Salad with Sesame-Marinated Mushrooms

2 T apple cider vinegar
3 T soy sauce
1 T honey
1/2 tsp red chili paste (such as Korean gochujang, Yemenite skhug, etc)
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 T canola oil
8 oz thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
6 cups baby spinach leaves

~ To make the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, honey, red chili paste, and sesame oil.
~ In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over high heat, add the shiitake mushrooms, and seer quickly, tossing frequently, until the mushrooms are tender and have begun to release their juice.
~ Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the dressing, and simmer just long enough to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan - you don't want any of your dressing to evaporate.
~ Reduce the heat to low, fold in the spinach, and continue to fold gently until the spinach just begins to wilt.
~ Serve immediately...

On the blog this time last year... Brownie Pudding!
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