Seared Mushrooms, Radicchio & Fregola with Whipped Ricotta

By EmilyC
January 26, 2018
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Author Notes: Here, mushrooms, radicchio, and fregola are tossed together in almost equal proportions, and then piled atop whipped ricotta. The resulting dish is bold in flavor, texture, and color (necessary attributes for a salad that’s getting piled on a bed of cheese). Because the cheese is on the bottom, the salad components aren’t weighted down; they look pretty (tossing salads with soft cheese can get messy); and, best of all, every bite includes creamy ricotta.

It’s terrific in the winter months, plus it’s sturdy enough to enjoy for dinner and keep for lunch the next day. Tip: Spread whipped ricotta on the bottom of a storage container and pile salad on top; presentation is important for desk lunches, too! If you can’t find fregola, a kind of toasted Sardinian couscous, then pearl (Israeli) couscous can be substituted with equally tasty results.
EmilyC

Food52 Review: Throughout the cold-weather season, we rely on pantry ingredients like dried herbs and spice blends to transport our kitchens to a warmer place. That's why we've partnered with The Spice Hunter, makers of a zesty Italian seasoning blend, to bring you this recipe. The Editors

Serves: 4

For the salad:

  • 1 1/2 cups fregola (or pearl couscous)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1 pound cremini, button, or shiitake mushrooms (or a mixture), stemmed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, such as The Spice Hunter's Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 2/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 cups finely chopped radicchio, either treviso or chioggia

For herbed balsamic vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning, such as The Spice Hunter's Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  1. To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallots, balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl or jar. Let the shallots macerate in the acid for 5 to 10 minutes to soften their pungency. Add the olive oil and whisk to combine (or put a lid on your jar and shake). Adjust the seasoning and acidity, to taste.
  2. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the fregola and cook until al dente, or according to the package directions. Drain and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette, then stir and spread the fregola evenly on the baking sheet to cool and prevent clumping.
  3. While the fregola is cooking, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-heat heat. Add the mushrooms in a single layer (in two batches, if needed, so they don’t steam). Sear without disturbing for about 3 minutes or until nicely browned, then flip and repeat on the other side. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Repeat the process with any remaining mushrooms.) Return the full batch of mushrooms to the skillet and stir to combine. Lower the heat and add butter, Italian seasoning, and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another minute, stirring well. Remove skillet from heat and adjust seasoning and acidity, to taste.
  4. Meanwhile, whip the ricotta. In the bowl of a food processor, combine ricotta with salt and pepper, to taste. With the motor running, add 1 tablespoon olive oil in a thin stream, and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy, adding more olive oil if needed. Adjust seasoning, to taste.
  5. When ready to serve, dress the radicchio with just enough vinaigrette to coat, using your hands, then toss together the fregola, radicchio, and mushrooms (I like to do this on the rimmed baking sheet). Adjust seasoning and acidity (I sometimes drizzle a little more balsamic vinegar over the salad to balance its richness). On a large platter or individual plates, spread an even layer of whipped ricotta, going close to the edges so some of it will peek out. Top with fregola salad. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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