Comfort Food - Refreshed

December 5, 2012

A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square in NYC, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.

This week: Kelly offers up a festive holiday hors d'oeuvre without blowing her budget.

stuffed mushrooms
Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest

Kelly

Mushrooms are the universe’s gift to vegetarians. Well, at least to this vegetarian. I won't speak for the rest of the vegetarians in the world, but I’m not entirely sure I would have gotten through "the transition" without them. There’s just something about the mushroom. Actually, there are many things about the mushroom. (And I’m talking about any mushroom -- from white button to cremini to oyster, they’re all okay by me!) Let’s start with the taste. 

The earthy taste of the mushroom is downright satisfying. Mushrooms have a certain funky deliciousness about them. The Japanese refer to this as "umami," which is one of the five tastes (along with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter) and is undoubtedly savory. The umami in mushrooms leaves a mild aftertaste on the tongue that translates into a lingering invitation for more, more, more. Mushrooms are delightfully addictive in that sense. (And given the super antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of this wondrous fungus, it’s not a bad habit to have!)  

The texture of the mushroom is just as important as the taste for me. Juicy, dense, and slightly chewy, the mushroom has a mouthfeel that can’t be beat. Depending on how you cook them, you can really elicit a meaty, toothsome bite that will get your incisors jumping up to the challenge.

But what makes mushrooms an irreplaceable wonder in my diet is, simply, the versatility. So here we go. I’m just going to go through a few of the ways the glorious mushroom is present at breakfast, lunch, and dinner in my life on a regular basis.  

1. Mushroom, Chard and Sweet Potato Tacos (I’m not sure there’s a better thing going in a corn tortilla.)

2. Mushroom and Edamame Fried Rice (Bulking up rice with mushrooms and beans make for awesome Chinese stay-in meal.)

3. Mushroom and Barley Soup (There's nothing heartier than mushrooms and barley in a piping-hot bowl of creamy goodness.) 

4. Mushroom Stroganoff (Actually, this might be heartier than the Mushroom and Barley Soup. Check out the recipe I dig most here.)

5. Mushroom and Cabbage Brown Rice Noodles with Peanut Sauce (Peanut sauce on top of mushrooms might just be the perfect condiment.)

6. Mushroom and Green Bean Sauté (A standard holiday classic. Top it off with slivered almonds.)

7. Mushroom Marinara over Ziti (A couple tablespoons of red pepper flakes keeps this sauce buzzin'.)

8. Mushroom and Lentil Ragout (Earthy meets earthier, doused in balsamic and Dijon.)

9. Mushroom Tofu Scramble (Sauté up some crumbled firm tofu with tamari and turmeric, and top it with tons of sautéed mushrooms for a protein-rich breakfast of champions.)

Those are just a few of the casual ways I cook with mushrooms -- hearty basics that I can’t get enough of at any old time of the year.

But this time of year, when things are festive and folks are coming over to enjoy said festivities, I go to my Spinach, Pine Nut and Olive Stuffed Mushrooms. They are cute, elegant, and packed with flavor. And as far as composed hors d’oeurve go, they are affordable! That’s one thing about holiday parties: they can get expensive.

But when you’re dealing with small amounts of higher-end specialty items, a little goes a long way and makes a bit impact! And the basis of these stuffed mushrooms is not oyster mushrooms or hen of the woods or truffles (I cringe thinking about stuffing those), but white buttons, which is not a high-priced product at all! The pine nut and olive stuffing uses just a handful of each, and you can buy the pine nuts in bulk and the olives at the olive bar.

The pine nuts and olives make the spinach and mushroom stuffing come alive, truly. Bake off the stuffed mushrooms till they’re glistening, juicy, and golden, and serve them to your guests with pride. Compose them the night before, so that you might just get to enjoy the party. And why not make a mushroom-tofu scramble as your recovery breakfast the morning after? Mushrooms are evergreen, after all. 

Spinach, Pine Nut and Olive Stuffed Mushrooms

Makes 24

24 large button mushrooms, stems removed and stems finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup water (for deglazing)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 pound fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts, finely chopped
3 tablespoons minced kalamata olives
Sea salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flatleaf parsley, minced

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

In the NYC area? Stop by for cooking advice!

Do you need help with maintaining a healthy diet? Drop by WFM Columbus Circle or WFM Union Square to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips. I'll be preparing these stuffed mushrooms on Thursday, December 6, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at our Columbus Circle store.

If you're not in the area, send me a direct message or add your comments or questions below.

Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Rustic Vegetable Soup.

Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.

kelly dupuis

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