White Asparagus & Shiitake Mushroom Salad w/ Balsamic Reduction

In need of an idea for a quick summer salad that tastes delicious? I was too. Salad’s can get boring, especially for those of us that eat them on the regular. It’s important to change up the ingredients to keep your interest (and this healthy habit) alive and well.

On my first trip ever to the AdMo Harris Teeter, I was inspired at the sight of white asparagus. The pale sister of glowing green asparagus, white asparagus is rare to find fresh in the US. Luckily, I caught the tail-end of prime asparagus season and seized the opportunity to snag this porcelain beauty.

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This spring treat boasts a pretty impressive nutritional profile. Not only does Asparagus provide a natural liver detox, it is fortified with folate and vitamins E, A, and C to help protect you against heart disease. Folate, or B9, has also been linked to cellular regeneration (aka healing power). Vitamin E is shown to help fight Type II diabetes, and vitamins A and C will steel you against certain types of cancer and cataracts. Asparagus also contains potassium (as does its green cousin the avocado), which helps lower blood pressure and may reduce LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad kind).

Having selected my star ingredient, I decided to pick up some yummy shiitake mushrooms and arugula to round out the salad. For dressing, I decided to go sweet and simple with a balsamic reduction. The mild white asparagus paired nicely with the earthiness of the mushrooms, bitter bite of arugula, and sweet finish of balsamic.

Give this easy recipe a whirl for yourself, and if you aren’t lactose-intolerant or vegan, a hit of pecorino romano shavings would be delicioso!

Warm White Asparagus & Shiitake Mushroom Salad:

(Serves 4)

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 bunch white asparagus (substitute green if unavailable)
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 5 oz arugula (or 1 bag/box)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup good balsamic vinegar (for the reduction)

How to Make the Salad:

  1. Thoroughly wash your mushrooms, asparagus and arugula (unless pre-washed).
  2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add your asparagus, spreading it into a single layer, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 min or until al dente (you can get a fork in but the spear doesn’t slip right off). Remove from heat and slice into 2 inch pieces.
  3. Simultaneously with step 2,  heat another large saucepan with  2 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add your mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms begin to brown, or about 5 min. Remove from heat but leave the pan on your stove. Add your arugula to the same pan and give it a quick warm up for 1-2 min.
  4. Plate immediately, starting with the warm arugula as your base and equally dividing the asparagus and shiitake between four plates.
  5. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction (recipe below) and enjoy!

How to Make the Balsamic Reduction:

  1. Pour your balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn down the heat so that the boil reduces to a simmer.
  3. Stir occasionally and allow to simmer until the vinegar has reduced by at least half – though I liked to let it go longer for a thicker consistency.
  4. Allow to cool then drizzle over your plated salads to finish.

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