It used to be that we had a choice of two mushrooms in most supermarkets. We could get either white button mushrooms, or brown which were usually called crimini mushrooms. Both were imature forms of Agaricus bisporus and they are high in vitamin D and have possible medicinal value. At some point someone in the mushroom world realized, however, that the mature form of Agaricus bisporus could be sold instead of thrown away. They called them Portabella Mushrooms and a new product was born.
These large brown mushrooms are perfect for providing the base of many quickly prepared vegetarian meals. They can be topped or stuffed with a variety of other vegetables, popped into the oven, and within less than an hour including prep-time and cooking, you have a filling, dare I say meaty, vegetable entree or side dish. They are also great for using up bits and pieces of random veggies, breads and cheeses that you might have on hand. Here’s what I did the other night:
I used Tuscan Kale from the garden, roasted garlic (you could use raw), Portabella mushroom caps, pine nuts, feta cheese, a piece of ricotta salata, grilled artichokes in a package (you could use canned) and a lemon. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and wipe them with a damp towel. Never wash a mushroom in water – it will absorb all that water and then weep it out when cooking. Wiping with a damp towel, paper or cloth, is perfect.
Finely grate the zest off the lemon. Grate or chop any solid cheeses you’re using. Add those and any other chopped, cooked veggies you want to use. Since these mushrooms won’t bake for more than about 25 minutes you’ll want most of the ingredients for the stuffing at least partially pre-cooked.
I put a tablespoon of olive oil into a pan, added the garlic and the Kale which I’d cut into ribbons. I sauteed this until the kale was just wilted. If your garlic starts to brown, add some stock, white wine or a little water to keep it from getting bitter or burned.
Mix the recently cooked kale with all the other ingredients and pile them on top of the mushroom. Sprinkle the top with pine nuts. Bread crumbs mixed with a little butter or olive oil would be a good topping too.
The finished dish, garnished with a spring of African blue basil.
Some other great stuffing ingredients for large mature mushroom caps include: herbs of your choice, caramelized onions, summer squash, small cubes of barely cooked winter squash, potato, etc. Vegans can substitute tofu for the cheese and seasonings can go most ethnic directions.