Listen up: Vegetables take center stage in this Portobello and Arugula Salad with Fried Okra Croutons. Soaked with intense flavor, pan-sautéed to perfection, and combined with fresh herbs, heirloom tomatoes, and a drizzle of pecan oil vinaigrette, these mushrooms are elevated to the center-of-the-plate star attraction. What could be better? Crown the platter with crispy whole-fried okra croutons. Now do I have your attention?
For a carnivore like me, eating vegan isn’t an option. I love vegetable side dishes of all sorts, but when it comes to satisfying my hunger, it most always means protein-enriched meat as the centerpiece on my plate. There is one exception to this hard and fast rule: portobello mushrooms. Oh, I love them so, and it’s easy for me to explain why. Simply put, there are two adjectives I use to describe large round portobello mushrooms–meaty and hearty. And to give you further insight into my craving, those are the same words I use when I talk about a porterhouse steak. There’s something about the texture and flavor of portobellos that delivers the same experience of eating a thick, juicy steak.
In this dish, the mushrooms are accented by layers of flavor that seem to soak into the flesh of the mushrooms. First, balsamic vinegar brings an umami rich sweet/sour to the portobellos. Then, extra-virgin olive oil from my friend Fran Avery’s CRAVE culinary boutique in Lake Charles adds the perfect peppery punch during the sauté. And finally, Mark and Connie Guidry at Guidry Organic Farms in Sunset Louisiana provide the pecan oil finish that brings it all together. With fresh arugula, ripe heirloom tomatoes, and fried okra croutons, this portobello salad is sure to show up on your Acadiana table often.
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup pecan oil
- 2 tablespoons, finely chopped pecans
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large portobello mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 medium okra pods
- 2 cups arugula
- 2 medium tomatoes, quartered
- In a mixing bowl, add the vinegar and mustard, and slowly drizzle the pecan oil while whisking. Stir in the chopped pecans; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for later use.
- With a brush, remove any visible dirt from the mushrooms. Drizzle the inside membrane area evenly with balsamic vinegar; sprinkle with salt and a grind of pepper.
- In a large skillet with a tight fitting lid over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and the mushrooms with the interior-side down. Sauté until the mushrooms begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the red wine, and immediately cover the skillet. Cook for 1 minute, and then turn off the heat, and let the mushrooms steam in the carryover heat of the pan. Remove the mushrooms to a cutting board and cut into thick slices.
- For the okra croutons, in a large pot, bring 4 cups of vegetable oil to 375ºF. In a shallow bowl, combine the egg and milk; add salt and pepper. Add the flour to a shallow bowl along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add the whole okra pods to the liquid and then dredge in the flour to thoroughly coat each pod. Add to the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels; salt the pods immediately.
- To assemble, layer a long platter with the mushrooms slices and mound the arugula on top. Position the tomatoes around the platter; add the okra croutons. Dress with the pecan oil vinaigrette along with the chopped pecans. Add coarsely ground black pepper. Serve in the center of the table.
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