I LOVE mushrooms. Mushrooms are pure earthy, umami deliciousness. I just don’t get people who don’t love mushrooms. If you’re a mushroom hater it’s probably because you haven’t found your spirit mushroom cooking method. See, even though all mushrooms essentially have the same flavour, they taste texturally different based on how you cook them. Braising them makes them tender, roasting them can make them crisp or tender, and pan frying them, when you do it right, turns them into perfect little salty, crispy bits of goodness. They kind of turn into a mushroom chip and they’re awesome on their own, but even better when paired with quinoa.
The quinoa in this salad (it was supposed to be a quinoa bowl, but I didn’t have a pretty enough bowl, so it turned into a salad plate) is dressed with shallot oil. If you haven’t had shallot oil before, it’s going to change your life. Shallots are onions’ sweeter, tinier, hotter, better tasting cousins (that sounded wrong but it makes you want to go out and buy some shallots, doesn’t it?). They are incredibly flavourful, especially when heated up. They’re even better when you make them into what amounts to tiny onion rings and then save the oil to make dressing.
This salad is seriously an umami bomb. Add on some sliced avocado and quickly sautéed spinach and you have a meal that’s super full of flavour and contrasting textures. With salads like this, I could totally be vegetarian. Okay, no, who am I kidding. I couldn’t. But, I could for a meal, and that’s a feat in itself. That being said, if you threw an egg on this…
Shiitake Quinoa Salad Recipe serves 2-3
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
- neutral oil, such as rice bran oil
- 3-4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2-3 cups spinach
- 1 avocado, sliced
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- sliced green onions, to garnish
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons reserved shallot oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- juice of 1/2 lemon
Start off by cooking the quinoa. If you have your tried and true method of cooking quinoa that works for you, ignore this next little bit. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and then drain well. Sometimes I cook my quinoa in my rice cooker, but if I’m doing it in a pot, I use a non-stick one. Add the drained quinoa to your non-stick pot and turn the heat to medium to slightly toast the kernels, about 2 minutes. Add the 1 1/4 cups of broth, bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes is up, remove the pot from the burner and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes lift the lid and fluff. Let the quinoa cool while you’re preparing the other ingredients.
Heat up a bit of oil in a non-stick skillet or a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the mushroom slices in a single layer and cook undisturbed until golden and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook. By now the mushrooms should be slightly shrivelled and quite golden. Drain on paper towels and repeat until all of the mushroom slices are cooked. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper while still hot.
Add two and a half tablespoons of oil to the same skillet and heat over medium low heat. Add the sliced shallots and gently fry, stirring occasionally until they turn golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Keep a close watch as shallots can deepen in colour quite quickly. When golden, turn off the heat, scoop out the shallots and drain on paper towels. Let the shallot oil cool and set aside for the dressing.
In the same skillet, quickly wilt the spinach. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss into the quinoa. I used all of the dressing, but start out with half and taste as you go. To plate, scoop a generous amount of quinoa on a plate or in a bowl. Top with the mushrooms, spinach and sliced avocado. Garnish with the crispy shallots and green onions. Enjoy!