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Fennel and Arugula Salad, with Cremini Mushrooms and Fried Farm Egg

I’m going to let you in on a little secret which is probably not apparent if you’ve been following this blog for a while, or if you’re a new reader.

Although nearly 90% of the photographs are from meals prepared in my kitchen, the menus are generally planned a few hours in advance. I usually don’t know what it is I’m making for breakfast, lunch or dinner until I go visit my farmer’s market or, if the weather is lousy like it has been for the past two weeks, my local food emporium. I do try keeping an open mind, so that if I notice something that’s available that’s especially appealing, I can switch out a course without too much trouble.

Last night’s appetizer was supposed to have been “insalata di ceci e ruchetta”, or translated to English, “chickpea and arugula salad”. I was all set on making that too, until I realized that I had some mushrooms that needed to be used, which would be perfect with some locally-sourced organic/cage-free/antibiotic-free eggs. By the way, if you’ve never had an egg from a local farmer’s market, you’re missing out, as the flavor is 180 degrees from that of a typical supermarket egg. Yolks are brighter, egg whites are firmer, and the taste is literally ‘essence of egg’.

Part of this blog’s mission is to pierce the notion that “cooking is difficult, therefore it’s not for me”. I feel that our pre-occupation with food as entertainment (which is noticeable if you watch programs like Top Chef) is one of the main reasons why increasingly, more people think that ‘cooking is complicated’. While there are certainly ways to make a recipe more complex, I feel that doesn’t usually result in a very interesting outcome. Nine times out of ten, you’ll end up with a creation that’s ‘complicated’ for its own sake, but it won’t be nearly as delicious if you’d have let things alone.

Fennel and arugula salad, with cremini mushrooms and fried farm egg

Fennel and Arugula Salad, with Cremini Mushrooms and Fried Farm Egg

If cremini mushrooms are unavailable, substitute regular white button mushrooms instead.

This salad is simplicity defined. The hot yolk emulsifies with the vinegar and olive oil in the dressing, which coats the greens while simultaneously wilting them. It’s a terrific, delicious appetizer that’s packed with flavor, and a sure winner in my book.

4 tablespoons + 1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup arugula
1/4 small fennel bulb, quartered, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 small shallot, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly milled black pepper, to taste
2 large eggs

Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, along with a small pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Sauté the mushrooms until they begin to brown and are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl to cool.

In a large bowl, toss together the arugula, fennel and cheese. In a small bowl, whisk together the red wine, red wine vinegar and shallots. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil. Taste for salt and pepper. Toss enough of the vinaigrette into the salad to lightly coat the greens. Divide among 2 individual serving plates. Spoon the mushrooms onto the salad greens.

In a large skillet (or if you like, the same pan you cooked the mushrooms in), warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Crack the eggs into the skillet. Lightly sprinkle each with sea salt and black pepper. Cook the eggs over medium-low heat until the whites are set, about 4-5 minutes. When the eggs are done, transfer them to each of the salad plates. Sprinkle each plate with additional grated cheese, if desired, and serve at once.

Makes 2 servings.
Time: About 30 minutes, including prep.

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