Avec Restaurant | West Loop, Chicago, IL

A dish worth imitating: Avec's quinoa-mushroom salad

There's something to be said for a standby that surprises every time. Such is the case with Avec.

Nearly every visit to the eight-year-old West Loop restaurant leaves us impressed by a new menu addition, and inspired to recreate a dish or two. This time, we've done something about it.

A burrata dish from a recent visit–strewn with marinated chickpeas, pistachios, golden raisins and a few lightly dressed sprigs of watercress–is on the docket for our next cocktail party. But the more pressing matter was snagging the recipe for a bowl of mushrooms, apples and quinoa, served at room temperature and dressed as a salad.

Chef Koren Grieveson undercooks the nutty grain–removing it from the heat as soon as it begins to bloom, draining it, spreading it out on a pan, and letting it cool completely–so the quinoa is left with a noticeable crunch. The final bowl holds a riot of textures: silky, barely cooked shiitake mushrooms; pan-roasted Maitake mushrooms; crisp raw apple; and the specks of grain, which soak up the sherry vinaigrette (click here to see the recipe).

If ever there were a salad to break the winter routine, this is it.

Avec, 615 W. Randolph St.; 312-377-2002 or avecrestaurant.com