Around the table: Enjoy meaty mushrooms

Do you enjoy the rich, earthy flavors of grilled meat, but need to cut back on fat and cholesterol? Consider substituting mushrooms for meat on occasion. The “chewy” feel of mushrooms makes them satisfying and substantial on the palate, and they can be used in many different ways, both cooked and raw. They happily absorb flavors of marinades that we enjoy using on meats, returning to us some B vitamins, iron and potassium in the process. Choose mushrooms that are firm and unblemished, avoiding any that are broken or have soft spots. At home, wrap them in a white paper towel, put into a resealable plastic bag, and store in refrigerator up to four days. Don’t rinse mushrooms under water; rather, use a damp paper towel to gently clean the surfaces. September is National Mushroom Month, so there’s no better time to try one of these delicious recipes.

Mushroom Noodle Pudding

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You can make this casserole up to 4 days in advance and refrigerate, tightly covered. To reheat, cover with foil and warm in 325 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Recipe from “Almost Vegetarian” by Diana Shaw; makes 4 servings.

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 scallions, minced

1 small onion, minced

1/2 pound firm mushrooms, such as cremini, white button or portobello; cleaned and sliced

1/4 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup cottage cheese, low fat

1/2 cup sour cream, low fat or nonfat

1/4 cup shredded mild cheese, such as mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, or muenster

Pinch each: paprika, crumbled dried dill

4 cups cooked pasta, such as penne or ziti

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat; when hot, add scallions and onion. Reduce heat to medium low; saute until onions are soft and limp, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms; saute, stirring often, until they begin to give up liquid, about 6 minutes. Add broth, turn up heat to medium high, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and cheese. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushroom mixture from skillet into bowl; stir well. Stir in paprika, dill, and pasta. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish; pour pasta mixture into pan and bake until firm and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Grilled Portobella Mushrooms Stacked with Spinach and Shaved Parmesan

Grilled mushrooms, shaved cheese and spinach tossed with a snappy vinaigrette make this a delicious, non-meat, main-dish salad. Recipe from “At Blanchard’s Table” by Melinda and Robert Blanchard; makes 4 servings.

8 portobella mushroom caps

Olive oil for grilling

2 handfuls spinach, trimmed, rinsed and dried

Lemon-Pepper Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Prepare the grill. Brush mushrooms with oil; grill until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Toss spinach with just enough vinaigrette to coat leaves. Stack ingredients on salad plates, starting with a small pile of spinach, then a layer of shaved Parmesan, then a mushroom. Repeat layers in same order, pressing down gently to keep stack from falling. Drizzle a little extra vinaigrette over, garnish with cherry tomato halves, and serve while mushrooms are still warm.

Lemon-Pepper Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons coarsely cracked black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Store in refrigerator for up to a week. Makes 1-1/2 cups dressing.

Grilled Mushroom Burger with White-Bean Puree

Meaty portobello mushrooms on the grill are quite satisfying, even for meat lovers. Top with smoked cheddar cheese for an even deeper flavor. Recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine; makes 4 burgers.

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 cup cooked or canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Fresh ground pepper

8 large portobello mushroom caps (about 1 pound), stems trimmed

4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 large red onions, peeled and cut into thin rings

4 whole grain hamburger buns

1/2 small bunch arugula (about 2-1/2 oz.) rinsed well and dried

Olive oil cooking spray

Heat a grill over medium heat. In a food processor, combine one-fourth of the garlic, 1 tablespoon thyme, the beans and 1 teaspoon oil; process to form a smooth and spreadable paste. Add a little water if too thick. Season with pepper; pulse to combine. Set aside.

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Combine remaining garlic, tablespoon thyme, and oil on a plate or in a baking pan. Place mushroom caps in the garlic mixture; turn to coat. Season with pepper and drizzle with vinegar. Place onion slices on a plate; lightly coat each side with cooking spray. Grill onions until lightly charred on the first side, about 3 minutes. Flip onions, grill until tender and charred on other side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate; keep warm.

Place mushrooms on grill, stem side up, working in batches if necessary. Grill until browned on the first side and juices have begun to collect in centers, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until stem side of each cap is browned and center is tender, about 4 minutes more. Split buns in half and place cut sides down on grill; cook until warm and toasted, being careful not to burn. Transfer to a work surface. Spread 1/4cup bean puree on bottom half of each bun; top with two grilled mushroom caps. Layer each with sliced cheese, grilled onions, and a small handful of arugula. Top with matching bun halves and serve warm.