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A catchy contrast of red and green

January 29, 2003

Dear SOS: Citronelle Restaurant in the Santa Barbara Inn serves a side dish with a portabello mushroom over a mound of spinach that's cranberry flavored. I would appreciate having the recipe.

Jim Barry

Huntington Beach

Dear Jim: This is pretty on the plate, the dark green of the spinach contrasting with the garnet-colored cranberry sauce on top. The spinach is sauteed in butter with shallots and would be a great side dish by itself. Check the freezer section at your market for cranberries.

Citronelle roasted portabellos with spinach

Total time: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

4 large portabello mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil, divided

Salt, pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 shallots, diced

5 cups baby spinach

1 cup sugar

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 star anise

Juice of 1 orange

2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Place the mushrooms in a baking pan. Pour in the balsamic vinegar and one-fourth cup of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until the mushrooms are tender, about 20 minutes, turning the mushrooms once halfway through the cooking time. Set aside.

3. Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, tossing just until the spinach starts to wilt, about 1 minute. Set aside.

4. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of a large, heavy skillet. Heat the skillet over low heat and cook the sugar without stirring until it begins to melt around the edges. Once it does, pick the skillet up and gently swirl the sugar in a circular motion until all the sugar has melted and is a light caramel color, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the cranberries, vanilla bean, star anise and orange juice. The caramel will harden, but that's OK. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the caramel melts again, about 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool slightly then whisk in the remaining olive oil and the Sherry vinegar. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Remove the vanilla bean. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

6. To assemble, place a mushroom on each of 4 plates. Top each mushroom with spinach then drizzle with the warm vinaigrette.

Each serving: 569 calories; 235 mg. sodium; 8 mg. cholesterol; 31 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 72 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 8.05 grams fiber.

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