Bloomsdale Spinach Salad with Black Garlic Vinaigrette

I’m not a huge fan of regular spinach—I find the leaves to be a little flat, and they give my tongue a weird, fuzzy finish. Bloomsdale spinach has a much heartier texture and a cleaner flavor. And because it doesn’t wilt as easily as some greens, it can stand up to a warm vinaigrette. This twist on the classic spinach salad with bacon comes from our sous-chef Duane Taguchi, who turned it into a savory vegan version that’s rich in umami. The fried shallots contribute a crispy bite, and the smoked mushrooms impart a flavor redolent of bacon.

  • By Chef Duane Taguchi—Excerpted from "Crossroads" by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.
  • October 15, 2015
Image Author: Lisa Romerein
  • Yield: Serves 4


Smoked Mushrooms

To smoke the mushrooms, you will need a large pot with a steamer insert. Or you can simply skip that step and add smoked sea salt to the mushrooms instead.


1 pound mixed cremini and shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, wiped of grit, and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoons smoked sea salt (optional; see headnote)

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 cups hickory or apple wood chips, soaked in water for 20 minutes and drained (optional)



1 pound Bloomsdale spinach, stems trimmed (about 6 cups)

¼ cup Black Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe follows), warmed

Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup Kite Hill almond ricotta

½ cup Crispy Shallots (recipe follows)


Black Garlic Vinaigrette (makes 1 cup)

This is my favorite vinaigrette; you can taste all of the ingredients working together to hit the right notes of tart, smoky, and sweet. The real highlight comes from the black garlic, which has a complex umami flavor. Serve warm.


½ cup white balsamic vinegar

¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

6 black garlic cloves (see Note)

2 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped from the stems

1 shallot, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon agave nectar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes

¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil


Crispy Shallots (makes about 2 cups loosely packed)

Fried shallots add a crunch to Bloomsdale Spinach Salad. This recipe makes plenty for snacking too—you’ll thank me later.


4 large shallots

1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup cornstarch

Expeller-pressed canola oil, for shallow-frying (about 2 cups)





1. To roast the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 450°F.

2. Put the mushrooms in a mixing bowl, drizzle with the oil, and toss to coat. Add the vinegar, season the mushrooms with kosher salt and pepper, and toss to coat evenly.

3. Spread the mushrooms out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning them over with a spatula from time to time to prevent them from burning, until they lose their moisture and shrink. The mushrooms should be dark brown; feel dry to the touch, almost dehydrated; and be crispy. You should have about 1 cup. Set aside to cool (be sure the mushrooms are still in a single layer), air-dry, and firm up.

4. If you are not smoking the mushrooms, sprinkle them with the smoked sea salt. Set aside.

5. To smoke the mushrooms: Open the windows and remove the battery from your smoke detector. Line a large pot that has a steamer insert with aluminum foil (this will keep the wood chips from scorching the bottom). Spread the wet wood chips out on the foil. Cover the pot tightly with the lid and heat over high heat.

6. Meanwhile, put the mushrooms in the steamer basket. Once the chips begin to smoke, drop the steamer basket insert into the pot and cover tightly with the lid. Turn off the heat and allow the mushrooms to soak up the smoke for 5 to 6 minutes—no peeking. Set the mushrooms aside to cool.

7. Toss the cooled mushrooms with the maple syrup. (The mushrooms can be prepared a couple of hours in advance, covered, and held at room temperature.)

8. To prepare the salad: Combine the spinach, mushrooms, and warm vinaigrette in a mixing bowl, season with flaked sea salt and pepper, and toss to coat the spinach evenly. Arrange the salad on a platter or divide among four individual plates. Top with the almond ricotta and crispy shallots and serve immediately.

Black Garlic Vinaigrette

1. Combine the vinegar, parsley, black garlic, thyme, shallot, agave, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor and process for a few seconds, until the garlic is completely incorporated with the rest of the ingredients. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a steady stream, making sure it directly hits the blade. (This is the best way to distribute the oil and emulsify it evenly and quickly.) The vinaigrette will be smoky brown in color and somewhat thick.

2. When ready to serve, warm the vinaigrette over low heat. Leftover vinaigrette can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Black garlic is one of those mysterious ingredients that can take a dish from good to great. It’s a staple in Asian cuisine that originated in Korea. Because of black garlic’s molasses-like richness, this unique ingredient translates beautifully to Mediterranean cuisine. Basically candied garlic, black garlic is aged in a special fermentation process during which it develops its rich ebony color, flavor, and jelly-like consistency; the taste is sweet and syrupy, with hints of balsamic vinegar. Thankfully, black garlic is becoming more widely available at supermarkets, either as whole bulbs or peeled cloves, and it keeps for at least 6 months in the fridge. A little tip: slicing black garlic can be sticky business, so take care to dip your fingers in warm water as you cut to wash away any residue.

Crispy Shallots

1. Slice the shallots as thin as possible, using a mandoline or a very sharp knife. Put the sliced shallots in a colander and separate into rings. Set the colander over a bowl or in the sink and season the shallots with the hot sauce, salt, and pepper, tossing to coat. Sprinkle on the cornstarch and toss the shallot rings, shaking the colander, to coat them evenly.

2. Pour ½ inch of oil into a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the shallots in batches and fry, stirring constantly to keep them from clumping together, until crisp and light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried shallots to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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