Mushrooms

All-Inclusive Thanksgiving Dinner: Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

Every trip to the grocery store is an adventure for me. Even when I have a list in hand, I enjoy perusing the produce aisle looking for something unusual that I’ve never eaten or a seasonal favorite that I’ve waited an entire year to get my hands on once again. Sometimes, when I spot a standard item that looks super fresh I just go overboard and buy more than I need. This was the case when I picked up a three pound box of extra large snow white mushrooms at a mushroom outlet in Pennsylvania. They were beautiful and perfect . . . and I was happy! Since a lot of my thinking is done in the car, I pondered how I was going to prepare those beauties the entire ride home. With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner I thought about a family favorite — stuffed mushrooms. And then I thought about the turkey stuffing we used to make with mushrooms, celery, onions and sage. Why stop there? Why not place dollops of mashed white and sweet potatoes on top? And while I’m at it, I might as well make it festive with creamy mushroom gravy. This is a complicated recipe, but one that is achievable with some planning. First, I placed the sweet potatoes in the oven and baked them until soft. While the sweet potatoes were baking, I boiled the white potatoes on the stove top. I made the stock using onions and the mushroom stems. Next, I made the bread stuffing using one cup of the stock. You can make the gravy at this point or wait until after the stacks are assembled. If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now, don’t despair. Any or all of these elements can be done ahead of time depending on your time constraints and patience. You can use your own recipe for mashed potatoes. You can even use instant mashed potatoes; just use less liquid to achieve a stiffer consistency. You can also use canned sweet potatoes if you prefer. You can simply place dollops of mashed potatoes on top of the stacks instead of using a pastry bag and decorators tip. You can even assemble the mushroom stacks ahead of time and bake the next day. These Stuffed Mushroom Stacks require some thought and planning but they are worth the effort. It’s like an all-inclusive Thanksgiving dinner in every bite! You can serve them as an appetizer or as part of a buffet. You can plate them with green beans or shaved Brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce to serve as an elegant entree. Any leftovers can be served on a slider bun and rewarmed gravy the next day. On Thanksgiving and on every other day, I thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Stuffed Mushroom Stacks

3 lbs. large white mushrooms, stems removed and set aside

Mushroom Stock & Gravy

½ onion, thinly sliced
Reserved mushroom stems
2 Tablespoons red wine
4 cups of vegetable broth (Better Than Bouillon No Chicken)
2 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or corn starch
Black pepper

Lightly coat a medium saucepan with olive oil and heat over high heat. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until starting to soften and turn brown. Add red wine and cook until evaporated. Add vegetable broth (I use 1 teaspoon bouillon base to 4 cups of water for lower sodium). Reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Reserve one cup of the liquid to use in the stuffing. Remove from heat and let cool. When ready to thicken, add arrowroot and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until desired thickness is achieved. Remove from heat and let cool. You can puree the gravy in a blender and return to the saucepan until ready to serve. You can alternately use a hand-held immersion blender to puree the gravy right in the saucepan.

Stuffing

1 large onion (thinly slice ½ for gravy and mince ½ for stuffing)
2 celery stalks, minced
8 slices of sliced bread, toasted
1 cup of the reserved mushroom stock
Dried sage, oregano, marjoram to taste
Black pepper to taste

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of water to skillet then add the onion and celery. Saute until vegetables are soft and golden.
Cut or tear the toasted bread into small pieces, almost as if it’s shredded. Place in a large mixing bowl and add the vegetables, mushroom stock and seasonings. Toss until combined.

Mashed Potatoes

1 lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
2 Tablespoons (or more) soy yogurt or non-dairy milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by a few inches. Bring to a boil and cook until soft. Drain well. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. Mix in enough yogurt or milk to make the potatoes stiff enough to pipe onto the mushrooms. I don’t recommend using an immersion blender to remove lumps as this can make the potatoes gluey. Set aside.

Sweet Potatoes

1 lb. sweet potatoes, baked until soft
¼ to ½ cup oat flour (optional)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

Remove the skin from the baked sweet potatoes. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. If you want a stiffer consistency, add the oat flour one tablespoon at a time. Likewise, if you like sweeter add the brown sugar. You can use an immersion blender to remove lumps. Set aside.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Press the stuffing mixture into the mushroom caps, then pipe on either the mashed potatoes or sweet potato puree. Lightly coat the tops with non-stick spray. Place a few tablespoons of water in the bottom of the pan and place in oven. Bake until mushrooms are tender and browned and potatoes are browned, about 45 minutes. You can turn on the broiler during the last few minutes to brown the tops. You can assemble the mushrooms ahead of time, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

 

12 Nov 2017

Freedom from Oil: Grilled Summer Squash

Grilled Summer Squash

Over the weekend Bruce and I visited a vegan cafe that we came across in the early days of our plant-based journey. I recalled that we were pleased with the food so we decided to fuel up there before a wine-tasting adventure in southern New Jersey. I figured the roasted vegetable wrap would be a good choice. It wasn’t. As soon as I unwrapped the wrap it was like the flood gates opened up on my plate — and the flood was mostly oil. I picked at the vegetables hoping to rescue them from the oil spill that left them tasteless and greasy. From the time we left the cafe to our arrival at the first winery our conversation turned to America’s dependence on oil. Olive oil to be specific. It’s everywhere; in restaurant food, in family recipes, on cooking shows. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that it’s a “good” oil. Olive oil is one of the most calorie-dense foods and, contrary to popular belief, it may not be “good” for your heart as we once thought. But don’t take my word for it. This article and video from Forks Over Knives is an excellent (and brief) explanation. Some people feel that oil is needed to help brown food, like roasted vegetables. I can tell you that those “roasted” vegetables in my wrap were not brown at all. I’ve been preparing whole food, plant based food for five years now and I’ve learned to brown vegetables without the use of oil. Just the day before our outing I grilled eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash that came out flavorful and browned — and the only oil I used was a coating of non-stick spray on the grill grates. (I guess that’s what I had in mind when I ordered my wrap.) If you feel that grilled vegetables need a little something, try some fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and herbs. I made a light dressing for the zucchini and yellow squash that lets their delicate flavor shine through. You can serve grilled vegetables as an appetizer, as an add-in to a salad, in a sandwich or over your favorite grain. Treat yourself to a good non-stick skillet and try using a few tablespoons of water or broth when you want to brown vegetables. If you’re not ready to eliminate oil completely you can re-train yourself by first measuring the oil then spreading with a paper towel. Pretty soon you’ll be on your way to reducing your dependence on oil. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Grilled Summer Squash

a few zucchini and yellow squash, cut into 3/8″ thick slices

Heat an outdoor grill on high heat. Lightly coat the grates with non-stick spray. Place the zucchini slices directly on the grates. Close the cover and grill until the squash is browned, then turn over and brown the second side. Cooking time will vary depending on how hot your grill is. It may be necessary to reduce the heat to medium if the vegetables are browning too fast. Remove from grill and arrange squash on a serving plate, drizzling the dressing on each layer. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

Honey Summer Savory Dressing

½ cup white wine vinegar
1 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp. honey or agave
fresh summer savory to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Drizzle over grilled vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

10 Aug 2017

Still Smokin’: Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara

This is a follow-up to my post on Smoked Shitake Mushrooms. The flavor of the smoked shitakes are so intense that a little goes a long way, so I’m still trying to come up with some recipes to use them up. I like to use cashew cream as a base for creamy pasta sauces and the smoked shitakes made me think of Pasta Carbonara. For this recipe I made a creamy sauce with raw cashews, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a few smoked shitakes. (If you don’t want to smoke the shitakes, you can use liquid smoke.) I had about a half pound of cooked rigatoni pasta in the fridge that I “re-boiled” for 1 minute then added a cup of peas. I reserved some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. I stirred a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the pasta and peas. You can use as much or as little of the sauce as you like and add a few extra slivered smoked shitakes if you want a more smoky taste and some “meaty” texture. This dish came out creamy, smoky and oh, so yummy. It’s rich tasting, yet won’t weigh you down. This makes a nice meal to serve for a special occasion or you can make the sauce ahead of time and enjoy a decadent meal any night of the week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Smoky Creamy Cashew Sauce

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons tahini
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove
A few slices of smoked shitake mushrooms
water

Process all ingredients in blender, adding more water to achieve desired consistency.

Use on potatoes, broccoli or other vegetables. Thin out and toss with cooked pasta.

08 Jul 2017

Road Trip: Smoked Shitakes, Avocado Toast and More Adventures

Avocado Toast & Smoked Shitakes

Sometimes my recipes feel like a road trip. There may be a detour along the way or sometimes I just take the scenic route. It may be a long and winding road, but eventually I get to my destination. Last week I experimented with making smoked shitake mushrooms to replicate the flavor of bacon. Okay, it’s not bacon, but it did come out smoky, slightly sweet and salty . . . and tasty. Since I’m not a tofu scramble kind of girl and I’m quite happy with my E.L.T. sandwiches, I wasn’t sure what to do with the smoked shitakes. I packed them up and put them in the fridge. Every time I opened that refrigerator door I got a whiff of smokey goodness coming from the container of mushrooms. Fast forward a few days. We took a road trip last the weekend to Old Town Alexandria and had breakfast at Le Pain Quouidien. (BTW, this is an excellent place for plant foodies.) I ordered the avocado toast, which seems to be trendy these days. Actually, I think I might be on the tail-end of this trend, but better late than never. The avocado toast was quite nice and thought I’d like to try it at home. And then I remembered the smoked shitakes. And the hard-cooked egg taste of black salt. Hmmmm. I toasted a slice of whole grain bread, spread on some smashed avocado, a sprinkle of black salt, a few slices of avocado, several slivers of smoked shitakes and some cherry tomatoes. Every bite was a little bit creamy, crunchy, smoky, sweet and salty all at once. I had more smoked shitakes remaining and figured I’d be eating avocado toast all week, but I’m fueling up for some more adventure. Be sure to check back for a Smoked Shitake-Cashew Sauce (great on potatoes and veggies) and a Creamy Carbonara Pasta. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Smoked Shitakes

Note: You will get a better flavor by smoking the mushrooms in a stove-top smoker. Instructions are provided below the recipe.

10 oz. shitake mushrooms
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
½ teaspoon vegetable oil

Remove stems from mushrooms. Slice mushrooms into strips about 1/4 inch thick. (See instructions below for using a stove-top smoker.) *Toss with brown sugar, soy sauce, pepper and liquid smoke. Coat a non-stick skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are about the same texture as cooked bacon and have a glaze-like coating. Remove and cool completely. Place in covered container and refrigerate until ready to use.

To smoke the mushrooms in a stove-top smoker:

Smoke the mushrooms BEFORE proceeding with the recipe instructions after the asterisk.

Follow the manufacturer’s directions and smoke the mushrooms for 10 to 15 minutes. You only need a about 2 tablespoons of fine chips or a small chunk of smoking wood. You can taste the mushrooms after 10 minutes and if not smoky enough, continue smoking for another 5 minutes. Proceed with the recipe after the asterisk.

If you don’t have a dedicated smoker you can rig one up by using an old pot that has a heavy bottom with a tight-fitting cover and a collapsible steamer basket. Heat the smoker over medium heat. Add a small amount of hickory smoking chips. Place the basket over the chips and add the mushrooms to the basket. Place the cover on the pot and smoke the mushrooms for 10 to 15 minutes.

01 Jul 2017

Magnifique: Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

Mushrooms Bourguignon

I picked up a bag of baby portobello mushroom caps the other day not knowing what I was going to do with them. At two bucks a bag, I figured I’ll find something to make with them. These baby portobellos were about 3″ in diameter and had a nice thickness to them. It’s interesting how inspiration comes about, but the word “medallions” came to mind as I was gazing so lovingly at them. I wanted to make something hearty and meaty and thought of Beef Bourguinon. I used Ina Garten’s recipe as a guide for this recipe. I sauteed onions and garlic, browned the mushroom caps then cooked them in cognac and red wine. The mushrooms had a rich taste and meaty texture. The onions added a subtle, sweet contrast to the deep flavor of the mushrooms. Magnifique! I served the mushrooms with baked potatoes and mesclun salad, but they would also pair well with mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans. The next day, I made a Bourguignon slider with the leftovers and a small dinner roll. These would also make a nice addition to a buffet or cocktail hour. Make these Mushrooms Bourguinon and make something magnifique for dinner. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Bourguignon Slider

Mushrooms in the Style of Bourguignon

¼ cup dry red wine
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
About 1-1/4 pound small Portobello mushrooms (3” diameter)
Olive oil (optional)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tablespoon brandy
Dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together red wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and set aside.

Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve for another use.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with a small amount of olive oil. (You can omit the oil and use a few tablespoons of water.) Saute the onions over medium heat until they start to brown slightly. Add garlic and continue cooking until golden. Remove the onions and garlic to a plate.

Recoat the skillet with oil if desired. Place the mushroom caps top side down and cook until they start to brown. Turn mushrooms over and continue to cook until they brown and start to soften. Arrange the onion slices on top of the mushrooms. Add the brandy to de-glaze the pan, then add the red wine mixture thyme, salt and pepper. Cover skillet and cook on low heat until the sauce thickens and turns dark brown. Remove from heat and serve with baked or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

06 Jun 2017

Remodeling: Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Mushroom Gyro Wrap

Long before adopting a plant-based diet one of my favorite sandwiches was a Greek Gyro. I started out ordering them with the “mystery” meat that’s sliced from a slab of lamb (and who knows what else) spinning around on a rotisserie. I migrated to Gyros made with grilled chicken breast thinking that was a healthier choice. Some time ago I remodeled my Gyro with this Greek mushroom and chickpea version of the “mystery” meat which is very tasty, but requires a small amount of effort. I wanted to come up with a newer model that was scaled back in terms of prep time and calories. My latest remodeled Gyro recipe has two key aspects that I wanted to replicate, one being the distinct flavor of marjoram, rosemary and garlic and the other being the creamy tang of Tzatzki sauce. I decided to grill some cremini mushrooms (I would have used portabellos if I had them) and seasoned them with garlic powder, marjoram and rosemary.  For the Tzatziki sauce I used a combination of raw cashews (for creaminess) and soy yogurt (for tanginess). I make my own since I don’t like what’s available in the stores near me, but you can use store-bought vegan sour cream or just plain soy yogurt to keep it simple. After grilling and seasoning the mushrooms, mixing up the Tzatziki, and slicing up the tomato, lettuce and onion, I took a pocket-less pita out of the freezer only to find that it was dried out and lost it’s ability to bend without breaking. Luckily, I had some fresh (and supple) flour tortillas on hand, which made for a lighter and neater wrap. With its Greek-inspired seasonings, mushroom “meatiness”, creamy Tzatziki sauce, onions, lettuce and tomatoes this wrap has everything I want in a Gyro. Start remodeling your life today by building yourself this healthy and delicious Mushroom Gyro Wrap. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mushroom Gyro Wraps

Makes 6 to 8 wraps

Olive oil (optional)
1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (cremini or portabellos recommended)
dried marjoram, to taste
dried ground rosemary, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste

Tzatziki Sauce (recipe follows)
Flour tortillas
Lettuce, chopped
Sliced tomatoes and onions

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. (You can coat the skillet if desired.) Add mushrooms and cook until brown and most of liquid has evaporated. Season the mushrooms with marjoram, rosemary, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1 cup plain, non-dairy yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
Salt to taste
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Drain cashews and place in container of high-powered blender. Add just enough water to cover and process until smooth. Place into a small mixing bowl along with remaining ingredients and stir. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To assemble Gyros:

Place a tortilla on piece of aluminum foil. Layer the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and Tzatziki sauce on tortilla. Roll up forming a conical-shaped wrap and secure with aluminum foil.

Mushroom Gyro

16 May 2017

Supersized: “Chic” Filet Sandwich

Chik-fila Sandwich

There’s a fast food restaurant chain in the US called Chick-fil-A that serves, you guessed it, all types of chicken sandwiches. I took my Mom there once and ordered a bean salad for myself. It was enough to fill a thimble. Why is it that plant-based food options in fast food restaurants are not supersized? Why can’t they offer some kind of veggie burger? That’s how I came up with my “Chic” Filet Sandwich.  Bruce and his friends used to go there for lunch and he would jokingly pronounce it as “chic-filet.” One definition of chic “is a style that expresses specified trendy lifestyle or activity.” Since more and more people are adopting plant-based diets for health and humane reasons, “Chic” Filet seems apropos. 

I sauteed onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms to give the burgers a chicken soup flavor and added cannelini beans for substance. You can experiment with the seasonings to suit your taste (or what’s on hand in your pantry). I use either a 1/3 cup measure for an average size burger or a 1/2 cup measure for a supersized one. I made a plain mock mayo using raw cashews. You can spice it up by adding a small amount of the adobe sauce from canned chipotles, Siracha sauce. If you don’t eat cashews, you could try mashed avocado. Tasty, satisfying and it passes my “stays-within-the-bun” test. Make some “Chic” Filet Sandwiches and start a new trend of supersized healthy eating. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

“Chic” Filet Sandwich

1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained
¼ cup bread crumbs (oatmeal for gluten free)
1 Tablespoon mustard
2 teaspoons savory, marjoram or thyme
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon Sazon seasoning (or other seasoning blend)
Salt and pepper, to taste

hamburger buns, sliced tomatoes, onions, lettuce for serving

Brown mushrooms in non-stick skillet. Remove to food processor. Brown onions, garlic, carrots and celery in non-stick skillet. Add spices and herbs and cook 1 minute. Add to food processor along with remaining ingredients and pulse until combined. Using either a 1/3 or 1/2 cup measure, portion out the mixture and form into patties. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm.

Heat an electric griddle on high and cook burgers until browned on both sides, about 15 minutes total. You can also bake in a 375F oven, turning once halfway through cooking (about 20 minutes total). Serve on your choice of bun with lettuce, tomato, onions and top with cashew mayo or your favorite condiment. You can individually wrap and freeze the burgers after they are cooked.

Cashew Mayo

½ cup raw cashews soaked
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 tsp. black salt
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
1/8 teaspoon sugar

Process in blender until smooth, adding water as necessary to thin.

31 Jan 2017

Any Given Sunday: Burritos & Much More

Black Bean Burrito

In the late 1990’s there was a movie titled, “Any Given Sunday” that was about football. The title was derived from a line in the movie said by the team’s coach that any team could win or lose “on any given Sunday.” That term has a different meaning for me. Through the years, on any given Sunday, my family would be gathered in the kitchen, some of us cooking and others amusing us with stories. Any given Sunday was both a big deal and just a regular day in our home. Nobody went to work and the stores were all closed. We had nothing to do except cook a big meal and enjoy the company of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. After dinner, the men would play pinochle and the ladies and kids would play Pokeno. Now, on any given Sunday, you can still find me in the kitchen working on a new recipe or just getting a head start on some meal preparation for the week. Even though our Sunday’s don’t revolve around football, I thought today’s meal would make a fun game-day spread. I set up my electric rice cooker with some brown rice. While the rice was cooking, I worked on the peppers and black beans. I sauteed three bell peppers and two large onions in a non-stick skillet without any oil. There are a few ways to do the black beans. You can just use them straight from the can, make these smoky black beans ahead of time, or pull something (maybe 3-bean chili) out of the freezer that you squirreled away for an occasion like this. If you want to throw together something fast, you can just add some liquid smoke, cumin powder, salsa and cilantro to a few cans of beans. When everything is cooked, your guests can build their own burritos by layering whatever they like on a flour tortilla and top it off with guacamole and salsa. Not in the mood for Mexican? You can use the peppers and onions to make Philly Steak Sandwiches instead. All you have to do is grill some portobello mushrooms, layer with the peppers and onions on a roll, then top it off with a few slices of non-dairy cheese, like Daiya or Follow Your Heart. (I make my own cheddar using a recipe from The Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook.) If you have any peppers and onions left over, you can add them to a tofu scramble for breakfast or add some soy sauce and serve over rice for lunch the next day. On any given Sunday, your team may win or lose, but you’ll always come out ahead sharing healthy and tasty food with your family and friends. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Philly Steak Sandwich

Peppers & Onions

Easy Black Beans

17 Jan 2017

TFF: Marinated Mushrooms

Oil-free Marinated Mushrooms

Oil-free Marinated Mushrooms

Rachel Ray popularized the use of “EVOO” (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Very catchy. It’s hard to get away from using olive oil, especially since it has a reputation of being “the good fat”. Some disagree with that notion. Not only are there 130 calories in just one tablespoon of olive oil, there is evidence that this “good fat” can build up in your arteries. Many of my recipes are oil free and on occasion I include it as an option for those of you who haven’t mastered the skill of “dry sauteing”. So what do you do about marinating vegetables like mushrooms? Most recipes for marinated mushrooms, and the ones you buy at the store, contain some kind of oil. I wanted to come up with a recipe that was oil- and salt-free. The problem with eliminating oil is that the marinade would be too tart from all that vinegar. (Most vinaigrettes contain more oil than vinegar.) I decided to use a mixture of lemon juice, vinegar and water to tame the tartness of the marinade and simmered the mushrooms with garlic, oregano, salt (if using) and pepper. The recipe as written is what I call “TFF” – Totally Fat Free. If you feel the need to drizzle on a little olive oil, you can call it “VFF” – Virtually Fat Free. You can serve marinated mushrooms as an accompaniment for sandwiches, cheese platters, antipasto or tossed into salads. You can even use them to garnish a classic Martini for your holiday cocktail party or New Year’s Eve celebration. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Three Mushroom Martini

Marinated Mushrooms

12 oz. small white button mushrooms
6 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Oregano, salt (optional) & pepper to taste

Clean any dirt from mushrooms and place in a small pot. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. When cool, place in a covered glass jar and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy within one week.

29 Dec 2016

Pastabilities: Mushroom Walnut Bolognese

Mushroom-Walnut Bolognese

Anything is possible with a bag of pasta and your imagination. I picked up a bag of these beautiful Pappardelle noodles imported from Italy last week. Surprisingly, they were on sale for a dollar a bag. You know I just can’t pass up a bargain (I’m feeling sorry that I didn’t buy about 10 bags) or the chance to enjoy an extraordinary pasta meal. A traditional Bolognese sauce starts off with a “battato”, which is a mixture of carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Ground beef, pork and a cured meat like prosciutto are added, then simmered with milk, wine and beef broth. The sauce is finished off with heavy cream. It is delicate, aromatic and luscious. I played around with a mushroom-based version of Bolognese sauce a few weeks ago and served it with rotini pasta. I made a battato with onions, carrots, celery and ground fennel, then added in minced mushrooms and coarsely ground walnuts. For the simmering ingredients I used white wine, soy milk, tomato paste and a hearty vegetable broth. At this point, I reserved half of the mixture to freeze and added half of the cashew cream to the pot. (Warning: the sauce may not look too appetizing on its own, but when tossed with the pasta it’s quite pleasing.) The dish was flavorful, but the rotini wasn’t quite the “experience” I was after. So when I came home with this bag of Pappardelle, I remembered that I still had half of the Bolognese sauce in the freezer. I defrosted the sauce, stirred in some fresh cashew cream at the end and tossed it with the Pappardelle. Delicioso! This dish is a tasty alternative to pasta with marinara sauce for Sunday dinner yet fancy enough for a special occasion. If you can’t find pappardelle I recommend using a wide, flat pasta like fettucine or tagiatelle. I bet it would also be nice layered and baked with non-dairy ricotta and lasagna noodles. The possibilities for a plant-based lifestyle are limitless.  Just open up a bag of pasta and you can open up a whole world of pastabilities. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Mushroom Walnut Bolognese

Makes enough sauce for 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of pasta

½ cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 4 hours or overnight

1 small onion
1 small carrot
1 small celery stalk
½ teaspoon ground fennel

12 oz. mushrooms (white button or cremini)
1 cup walnuts

1 can of tomato paste
2 cups dark vegetable broth (either homemade or Better Than Bouillon “No Beef” base)
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup non-dairy milk (soy)
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
Dash of liquid smoke (optional)
Parsley, black pepper and salt, to taste (you can use truffle salt instead of table salt)

Drain cashews and place in high powered blender container with enough water to just about cover the nuts. Process on high until super smooth. Set aside.

Place onions, carrots and celery in bowl of food processor and pulse until minced. Heat a medium saucepot over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook until softened, but not browned (about 10 minutes). Add ground fennel and cook another minute.

Process mushrooms in food processor until minced. Stir into vegetables in pot and continue to cook, uncovered. Process walnuts in food processor until coarsely ground. Add to pot. Add tomato paste, broth, wine, soy milk, parsley, pepper and salt. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer until the walnuts soften and the sauce is very thick. (You may need to use a heat diffuser to prevent the sauce from cooking too fast.) Add the cashew cream and stir to combine. Toss with cooked pasta. You can remove the sauce from the stove at this point and re-heat it later, adding the cream at the last minute of cooking. You can also freeze the sauce before adding the cashew cream.

 

19 Dec 2016

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