It’s time for super seasonal winter salad. Because (depite the sunshine and 80 degree temperatures) it’s winter where I live. I’m choosing Savoy cabbage, celery leaves and sweet tooth mushrooms.
Are you familiar with sweet tooth mushrooms? It’s an odd sounding name. Perhaps you know them as hedgehog mushrooms. Sweet tooth and hedgehog mushrooms are nearly the same ‘shroom. Both are cousins to the belle of the mushroom ball– the chanterelle mushroom. Though sweet tooth mushrooms tend to be smaller than chanterelles, and hedgehogs tend to be larger. All these mushrooms are some of the tastiest fungi around, but the sweet tooth mushrooms are also true to their name. They are indeed sweet. They have a honey-like quality that ends with a peppery bite. Making them very much sought after as edibles.
Where I live sweet tooth mushrooms show up in late fall and stick around through January or February. Making them a perfect addition to a winter salad.
I’ve paired these sweet tooth mushrooms with Savoy cabbage. Savoy cabbage has a mild mustard flavor that works nicely with the ‘sweet’ in sweet tooth mushrooms. Making these two winter veggies dynamic partners. I realize neither one of these veggies are likely to be found in the grocery store. They are decidedly ‘specialty’ items. In Southern California they’re easy to find at the Farmers Market. So look around.
Celery of course is available everywhere. But for this salad I’m going to encourage you to seek out celery from the Farmers Market. Have you ever noticed that grocery stores chop the tops off of celery? They toss all those delicious dark green leaves right into the garbage. Why? I use the leaves in a variety of soups and salads. Many of them with mushrooms. Celery and mushrooms are a simple but surprisingly delicious combination. Add some salty, aged cheese to the mix and I couldn’t be happier.
Speaking of salty cheese. It’s vital to the success of this salad. I chose cotija. Again, it’s not a product that shows up in every market. But keep an eye out for it. Latin groceries will have it for sure.
Cotija cheese is an aged cow’s milk cheese from Mexico. It has a strong, salty flavor. In fact it has twice the salt content of Cheddar. On its own it could politely be called an acquired taste. But don’t let that put you off. Because there’s magic in Cotija cheese when it’s paired with strong flavors or mellowed somewhat with other cheeses. It’s most often used crumbled or grated as a topping for soups, salads, beans, enchiladas and tacos. In fact it’s these qualities that have earned it the nickname, The Parmesan of Mexico. GREG