If you’re Catholic, and it’s Easter, you don’t eat meat on the Friday and Saturday before Easter Sunday (this varies, with some people only abstaining from meat on Friday, and others fasting). That seems to be one of the few Catholic traditions that my family still observes. The dilemma this left me with a few weeks back was, we eat primal/paleo – how the heck are we supposed to survive as vegetarians for 2 days? The concept was foreign to me – as you can tell from my recipes, other than snacks, pretty much every meal includes meat. Before paleo/primal, I would’ve just stuffed myself with grains.
Thus, we had a little “brainstorming” session to figure out what to have for dinner on Saturday. We had already eaten lots of eggs and fish – as close to meat as we could get. My dad saved the day – and perhaps our souls – by suggesting Portobello mushrooms. And then I came across this stuffed Portobello recipe on epicurious. Brilliant! The meal was so filling and flavourful that I can honestly admit that I didn’t miss the meat. Don’t worry, I’m not turning vegetarian any time soon (more like never), but if I’m ever cooking for vegetarians, this would be the meal that keeps everyone happy. Well, unless my dinner guests are actually vegan, but I don’t see how we could get along well enough to be inviting each other over for dinner, so perhaps I needn’t worry (I’m kidding! We can still be friends – just expect to get a very frequent earful). As a concession, I suppose I could just leave out the cheese…
So if you’re looking for a meat-free dish (gasp!) look no further, this one fits the bill (primalized from the original). We served the Portobellos with a side of braised cabbage from the cookbook, “All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking” by Molly Stevens. (It’s a pretty awesome cookbook, by the way – it deservedly won the James Beard and IACP Awards).
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 thyme sprigs
6 Portobello mushrooms
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach
1 pound button mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup plus 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 5-ounce package soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Some crushed pecans (optional)
1. Whisk all marinade ingredients, and then stir in thyme sprigs.
2. Cut stems from Portobello mushrooms and set aside for stuffing.
3. Put mushrooms into large ziplock bags and fill with marinade. Marinate up to 4 hours, turning to coat. (We only marinated for about an hour, and they were still great).
4. Cook spinach, drain, and cool. Squeeze out excess water.
5. Food process or coarsely chop button mushrooms and Portobello stems.
6. Heat ghee in pan, and sauté onions until beginning to brown. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds.
7. Add chopped mushrooms and increase heat. Cook until almost all liquid evaporates, stirring often.
8. Season mushroom mixture with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl and cool to room temperature.
9. Add spinach and 1/4 cup Parmesan to mushroom mixture. Toss to distribute evenly.
10. Add goat cheese and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
11. Preheat oven to 400°F.
12. Transfer Portobellos to baking sheet covered with parchment paper, gill side down. Roast for about 15 minutes until beginning to soften.
13. Flip Portobellos and divide filling among them. Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over the mushrooms. Sprinkle some crushed pecans over the parmesan (optional).
14. Bake until heated through and cheese begins to brown, about 15 minutes.
Notes: You can add in 1/4 cup Marsala to the marinade to dress it up if you wish.
1 medium head green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4” rounds
1/4 cup stock or water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 325 °F.
2. Arrange cabbage wedges in 9”x13” baking dish – a slight overlap is okay, but should generally be a single layer.
3. Scatter the onion and carrot over the cabbage.
4. Drizzle with stock/water and olive oil.
5. Season with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes (optional).
6. Cover tightly with tin foil. Braise for about 2 hours until cabbage is completely tender. If cabbage is drying out, add more stock/water. Halfway through, turn cabbage with tongs – don’t’ worry if it’s starting to fall apart, just do your best to keep it intact.
7. Remove foil, increase heat to 400°F and roast until veggies begin to brown, approx. 15 minutes.