The blend of earthy, bitter and sweet flavors in this roasted carrot, lion’s mane mushroom and spring onion salad topped with fresh raab pesto balance beautifully. I could easily become a vegetarian if Jenn Robbins, chef de cuisine of Avalon Catering created weekly menus featuring hearty vegetable dishes like this one. Maybe she will consider making portioned size meals that can be delivered to the house or a central location. I know many people do not have time to cook during the week and are looking for delicious, healthy already prepared meals, especially ones with local, organic ingredients that their kids will enjoy eating. Just an idea…..
Fortunately, Jenn gave me permission to share this fabulous roasted salad for you to make at home. It seems complicated but really isn’t especially if you make the pesto and sherry vinaigrette ahead of time. They will last in the refrigerator for several days. Just make sure you bring the vinaigrette to room temperature before serving or your may have some congealed olive oil pieces on the salad.
Since Jenn wanted to show us how to cook with some of the vegetables most people pass by at the farm stands, she contacted Nicolas over at Crystal Organic Farm and asked what he planned to harvest and bring to the market for the next few weeks. When he mentioned trendy radish pods, spring broccoli raab and spring purple onions which all pair well with carrots, she knew she could make something that would please all the herbivores in the Morningside Market crowd.
Cooking over high heat increases the sweetness in carrots and onions as well as removes the strong bite found in raw onions. Jenn decided to roast all the vegetables except the young radish pods so they would provide the bitter balance and a little crunch. If radish pods are picked when young, they have a mild Daikon radish flavor which is not as sharp as other radishes. They are excellent in stir frys and can be pickled as well.
The spring broccoli raab greens are very popular in Italian cuisine. Jenn choose to puree them into a pesto with garlic cloves, toasted walnuts, parmesan cheese, EVOO and canola, sea salt and sherry vinegar to compliment the simple sherry vinaigrette. Most people think pestos are made with basil leaves but you really can use any leafy green, herb, or vegetable such as artichokes. Use what is in season so you can enjoy pestos all year round. Fennel frond pesto is amazing during the winter months. I will whip up a cilantro pesto if I need to detox. If you do not have time to make your own, Bella Cucina has an entire line of different pestos and the artichoke lemon is the best seller.
Jenn has a real talent for creating dishes using local and season ingredients as well as explaining why the flavors work together. She emphasized the importance of seasoning the vegetables with salt and herbs and not overcooking them. The carrots should be tender but not limp. Always taste your food as you are cooking and trust your taste buds. I need to get her some of my herb and zest salts to experiment with and come up with more gourmet meals that take under 30 minutes for you to to make at home.
Here are some tips from Jenn to make your vegetables look and taste even better:
- Shred the lion’s mane mushrooms and cook over high heat so they do not become rubbery in texture.
- Rough chop the raab or other herbs before you puree in a blender so the pesto is not stringy. This will also prevent the greens from bruising and turning a brown color. You will know if your blade is dull if the pesto turns brown.
- Use a bristled nail brush to scrub the vegetables; it is less expensive than the ones you buy at a cooking warehouse.
- Carrots and sherry pair well together. Try using sherry as the acid in dishes with carrots instead of lemon juice.
- Using a guard or steel gloves for beginners, cut carrots lengthwise to create long shavings for a more beautiful presentation.
1) Spring Raab Pesto- Remove the stems and rough chop the raab greens. Place 1/2 bunch of greens in a high powered blender along with 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese or another aged nutty cheese, 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Pulse the blender and slowly add the 1 cup of EVOO and canola oil blend until it reaches a chunky pesto consistency. Taste and add more salt if needed. Makes 2 cups of pesto.
2) Sherry Vinaigrette- Combine the 1/2 cup sherry vinegar, 1 brunoised shallot, and 1 tablespoon of honey in a small mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the 1.5 cups of EVOO and organic canola oil blend, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Makes 2 cups.
3) Roasted Carrots, Lion’s Mane Mushrooms and Spring Onions- Preheat the oven to 425 F. Wash and trim the tops to 1/2″ and then use a paring knife to remove the dirt ring on the top. Set 2 carrots aside to shave later with the mandoline. Quarter the remainder of the 2 bunches of carrots. Toss with oil and salt. Quarter spring onion bulbs and toss in oil and salt. Roast the onions and carrots in the oven until cooked through but still retain texture, approximately 20 minutes. You can also sauté them in a skillet and cover with a second skillet toward the end. When the onion bulbs have cooled, rough chop them and marinate in the sherry vinaigrette. Set aside.
In a hot pan, sauté the lion’s mane mushrooms in butter and oil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
On a sharp mandoline, shave the 2 remaining carrots (not roasted) on a long bias. Mix the marinated onions, radish pods, and shaved raw carrots. Adjust seasonings as needed or add more dressing.
4) Plate- Start with adding a spoonful of pesto on the plate, then add the carrots and mushrooms. Garnish with the onion/carrot/radish pod salad. The roasted carrots and mushrooms can be served at room temperature or warm. Enjoy!
Recipe provided by Jenn Robbins
Photos provided by TC Brodnax