The book:  The New Midwestern Table, by Amy Thielen (Clarkson Potter, $35.00)

The recipe:  Grilled Mushroom Salad with Toasted Almonds

Why I tried it: This is one of those goes-with-everything sides.  When I’m planning the week’s meals, I usually decide all the protein mains first, and then wing the vegetable while the main dish is bubbling away.  If I’m testing two recipes at once, it’s a boon to find a side that mix-and-matches nicely and doesn’t take up too much of my cognitive capacity.  This one looked like a winner. Plus, I love shiitakes in everything.

Why I loved it:  Grated garlic!  what a good idea – you get good flavor dispersal through the marinade, and it kind of clings to the mushrooms instead of charring in little bits when you try to grill.  The toasted almonds ensure that every bite goes crunch, if you are the kind of person who gets bored by soft mushroom textures after a couple of minutes. And the meaty mushroom flavor, the paprika, and especially the butter fuse the three parts – vegetable, green, and nuts – into something that transcends any one of those elements.

Estimated preparation time:  35-40 minutes, including a little marinating down time so you can spare some attention for whatever else you’re cooking.

Click here for my complete list of 2013 cookbook recommendations.  The New Midwestern Table is one of my top 10!  You can also find many, many more recommendations for great cookbooks on my app, Cookbook Finder (available for your  iPhone/iPad or Android device).

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Grilled Mushroom saladGrilled Mushroom Salad with Toasted Almonds

Serves 6 to 8

Author’s note: “You can make the marinated grilled mushrooms well ahead of time. In the summer, grill the mushrooms outside. In the winter, I char them on a stovetop grill pan or, in a pinch, in a hot cast-iron pan.”

7 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 clove garlic, finely grated
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 tablespoon salted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sugar
10 cups mesclun greens

Trim off and discard the mushroom stems. Wipe the caps with a damp cloth. Combine the garlic, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of the paprika in a medium bowl. Add the mushroom caps, toss, and marinate for at least 20 minutes, and as long as a couple of hours.

To toast the almonds, combine them with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the butter, ¹⁄8 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a small pan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the almonds turn golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Preheat a grill or a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the mushrooms, starting gill-side down, until cooked through and well marked on both sides, about 7 minutes in all. Drop the mushrooms back into the marinating bowl to catch any juices. Then transfer them to a cutting board, chop roughly, and return to the bowl. Add the lemon juice, sugar, remaining 1 teaspoon paprika, salt and pepper to taste, and the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Just before serving, pile the greens into a serving bowl, and season them lightly with salt and pepper. Scatter the almonds over all, and toss with the mushroom and enough of the dressing to lightly coat.

Reprinted from the book The New Midwestern Table.  Copyright © 2013 by Amy Thielen.  Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.