I keep a bottle balsamic vinegar in the pantry for things like barbecue sauce. I have a recipe for a chipotle barbecue sauce that requires the sweet tang of balsamic vinegar to balance the spiciness of the smokey chipotle peppers. I also find balsamic vinegar wonderful with roasted vegetables and goat cheese. And though I appreciate the flavor of balsamic vinegar, I don’t typically seek out salads dressed with it. I find it’s sweetness much more enjoyable on the concentrated, robust flavors of roasted vegetables and often find it overpowers fresh vegetables and salads. That being said, for me, one way around this is to combine the two — fresh and roasted vegetables (pan-roasted in this case). The sweetness of both the balsamic vinegar and caramelized onions enhance one another and is mellowed by the sharp-saltiness of the Gorgonzola. You don’t have to use mushrooms. You can leave them out and increase the onions or, substitute them with another vegetable that you see fit.
Mixed Leaf Lettuce & Sautéed Onions, Mushrooms and Gorgonzola
4 ounces Cremini mushrooms, washed and cut into halves or quarters, depending on size
2 large yellow or red onions, cut into half-moon shapes
1 teaspoon butter (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Mixed leaf lettuce
1-2 ounces of Gorgonzola
flaked sea salt (such as Maldon) for finishing (or just use regular sea salt)
In a large sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms to pan and sauté the mushrooms, stirring occasionally for about 3-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have browned. Place the mushrooms into a clean bowl and set aside.
Return the pan to the burner and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the onions, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Sauté the onions until they have softened and caramelized, adjusting the heat as necessary. You don’t want the onions to fry furiously, otherwise they’ll burn before they caramelize. The heat should be high enough that the onions gently, but steadily, sizzle away in the pan until they caramelize, which should take about 15-20 minutes.
Once the onions have caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and turn off the burner. Return the mushrooms to the pan, along with any of the juices that may have collected in the bowl. Then, add the balsamic vinegar to the onion mixture and stir. Leave the onion mixture in the pan to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, wash and spin-dry the lettuce. Arrange the lettuce between four salad plates. Return to the onion mixture. Stir in 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Divide the onion mixture between the four plates. Dot the salads with the Gorgonzola and sprinkle with flaked sea salt. Enjoy immediately.