We're not a meat and potato family. About 90% of the time our meals are vegetarian and about 50% of the time vegan - again, not by planning, just by what we regularly eat. So, for me, dinner doesn't always have to be well matched, nor does it need to contain an overview of the food pyramid on a plate. Thus, as long as I end up with enough healthy elements, dinner can be almost anything. The whole family goes along with this style of eating, so it's no big deal.
Last night's meal was something new, an invented dish and in honor of the east coast Earthquake that could be felt all along the east coast (no I didn't feel it, my daughter and I were in IKEA and apparently, it's kind of Earthquake resistant - but my two kids at home said our house shook and my husband thought someone had sneaked into his office, and was standing behind him shaking his chair, my son who was at the skateboard park had no idea) I'm calling last night's main course (aka only course) Seismic Stuffed Mushrooms.
Here's the deal: They are portabella stuffed mushrooms (the big variety) stuffed with Italian summer stuffing and pepper cream cheese.
Ingredients: Carrots (any kind, even shredded), Onion, Celery, Dried Bread (or bag of stuffing), fresh garlic, cream cheese (or substitute), peppers (about 5 any variety - some hot some sweet), granulated garlic, chili oil, portabella mushrooms - large, salt and pepper
The Stuffing: Cook down a mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery) until they are soft and tender and the onions are translucent. I added about 3 minced garlic cloves to my mirepoix to make it more Italian and less American Thanksgiving -ish. I cooked them in both canola oil and Earth Balance for a buttery flavor. I used a large handful of baby carrots - chopped small, one large onion and one celery heart plus 3 large cloves of garlic. Throw in some herbs... I used a bunch of tarragon (I have bushes of the fresh stuff in my garden and I had dried some earlier this summer, I used the dried).
I also used a few shakes of poultry seasoning and a bit of chopped fresh sage (also bushes of this in my garden). Add dried bread stuffing (unflavored). I used half a bag, you'll have to gauge how much you need. You want only enough bread so that the mirepoix and herb flavor doesn't disappear. Then, add broth (I make my own or use vegetable broth or use a vegetable broth cube diluted in hot water). Add to stuffing mixture until all the bread has absorbed the juice. The mixture will be kind of soppy but the bread is still somewhat formed.
The Cheese Mixture: Remove the seeds from your peppers (I used 2 jalapenos and 3 green bells from my garden) and rough chop them. Saute them over medium heat until they are soft but not mush. Transfer them to the food processor for a quick (and I mean quick) whirl. Scrape the pepper mash from the processor and add it to about 6 ounces of softened cream cheese. Sprinkle in some granulated garlic powder, salt and about a teaspoon of chili oil. Stir. At this point the cheese/pepper mixture will be hart to resist and you'll want to add it to crackers and have a snack! You can substitute the cream cheese for vegan cream cheese or soft tofu for a similar vegan effect.
The Portabellas: Remove the stems and the black undersides (I scrape them clean with a spoon). Drizzle some oil and cook them over medium high heat until they are MOSTLY cooked through. Don't over cook them at this point. I add a bit of salt when I'm cooking them.
NOTE: I used the remaining mushroom juice and oil mixture from the mushroom cooking process and poured it over my stuffing mixture to give it more flavor.
Assembling: Put the portabellas top-side-down on a tray or in a casserole dish. Add some cheese mixture and spread it across the mushroom - it acts as a glue for the stuffing. Pile in stuffing. Give them a bit of salt and pepper. Put them in a 400F oven for at least 20 mins. The stuffing will get crispy on top - that's what you want.
Remove from oven and let sit about 5 minutes before eating. When these babies came out of the oven and I called the family in for dinner (there were only 3 of us and 6 mushrooms at this meal) I was very nervous having NO IDEA if I'd been successful. We all REALLY liked them - we ate 2 per piece. No leftovers... I did add the remaining stuffing that didn't go into a mushroom into a bread pan and I baked it in the oven alongside the mushrooms. My daughter has already claimed that extra stuffing portion for lunch today!