Food & Entertaining - Garden to Table

Use this fragrant garden herb in a variety of dishes

Warm Penne Salad (Makes 4 servings)
A cross between a salad and a main course, this is a very satisfying meatless dish that works well with any sort of wild mushroom but is especially good with curly edged oyster mushrooms. Don't stint on the amount of fresh basil, as it makes this simple dish fabulous.

1 lb. (450 g) fresh oyster mushrooms, wiped clean
1/3 cup (75 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp. (45 mL) flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 lb. (450 g) penne pasta
2 tbsp. (30 mL) red wine or red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) basil leaves, roughly chopped (or torn)
2 cups (500 mL) baby spinach leaves

Tear mushrooms into small pieces. Place a large skillet over high heat. Add all but 2 tbsp. (30 mL) of oil; let it get quite hot before adding mushrooms in single layer (do this in batches, if necessary). Cook, undisturbed, until mushrooms begin to brown on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then add salt and pepper, and cook for a further 15 minutes or until they're tender. Add garlic and parsley, and cook for another couple of minutes.

Place a large pot of water over high heat. When it boils, add pasta and salt, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until pasta is al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup (250 mL) of water. Place pasta in a large bowl (if the bowl is very cold, warm with hot water, drain). Using a spatula, add mushrooms to pasta. Working quickly, return skillet to heat and add reserved pasta water; then scrape up any bits clinging to bottom of skillet. Let mixture boil for a minute or two until it's reduced by half, then add wine. Whisk in remaining oil. Pour mixture over mushrooms and pasta, and toss together. Next, add basil and spinach; toss again. Taste for seasoning and, if desired, drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil over finished dish. Serve immediately.

Click here to learn how to grow your own basil.

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