I’ve made no secret of my mushroom love. I like to divide them into two categories: the interesting varieties (oysters, shiitakes, morels, puffballs and the like) that I find at the farmers market or forage; and the less-interesting ones (buttons, creminis) I buy at the supermarket. The former I showcase in the kitchen; the latter I use in sauces, soups or the like.
I didn't mention one of the most ubiquitous varieties in all of vegetarian cooking: the portobello. Of course, I eat these too, usually when I want a dish that calls for something particularly meaty. I don't find their flavor as captivating as, say, maitakes or chanterelles, but they serve a purpose, as that huge cap is perfect for stuffing.
Stuffed mushrooms are a retro appetizer when the smaller fungi is used as finger food. But plant-focused cooks can serve a couple portobellos (or even one when the cap is particularly large) with a hearty enough filling, and it's dinner.
My latest inspiration for stuffed portobellos comes from Zita Steyn's new book “Eat More Greens” (Quadrille, 2017). You mash sweet potato with a saute of onion, garlic and kale, mix it with cheddar cheese and corn, mound it on those mushroom caps and bake for a half-hour or so. The result is something you can tuck into with a knife and fork rather than your fingers, which makes it even more substantial – and satisfying.
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Portobello Mushrooms With Tuscan Kale and Sweet Potato
Adapted from “Eat More Greens,” by Zita Steyn (Quadrille, 2017).
9 ounces sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large clove garlic, chopped
4 ounces Tuscan kale, thick stalks removed, leaves rinsed and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups packed; may substitute another variety of kale)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (optional; may substitute vegan cheese)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen/defrosted corn kernels
5 large or 6 medium portobello mushroom caps (about 2 ounces each)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the diced sweet potato in a steamer basket set over a small saucepan with an inch or two of water over medium heat. Cover and steam until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a mixing bowl, add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and mash with a fork.
Meanwhile, pour the oil into a deep saute pan, over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt; cook, stirring frequently, until they have softened. Stir in the chopped kale; cook until wilted and tender and any water clinging to their leaves has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.
Scrape the kale mixture into the bowl with the sweet potatoes. Stir in the grated cheese, if using, and the corn. Taste, and add more salt, as needed.
Arrange the mushroom caps, gill sides up, in a baking dish that's just large enough to hold them. Divide the sweet potato-kale mixture equally among the mushrooms, mounding it as needed; you'll want to use it all. Bake for 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is slightly crisped and lightly browned on top. Serve hot.
Per serving (based on 3): 190 calories, 7 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 420 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar
Yield: 2 to 3 servings main-course servings or 4 to 6 appetizer servings.