Sunday, April 20, 2008

Recipes: Morel Stuffed Mushrooms, Marinated Beets with Candied Red Onions, & Horta Salad (Μανιτάρια Γεμιστά, Μαριναρισμένα Παντζάρια, & Χόρτα Σαλάτα)

Dried Morels and Fresh MushroomsSome days, writing is easy. Other days, it’s like shelling pine nuts; in other words, hard and frustrating. Today’s been a pine nut day.

Part of the problem was my notes for three separate recipes were scribbled on one too-small piece of paper. Sorting them out made my head spin. None of the recipes are particularly difficult, but describing them on paper was harder than it should’ve been.

I considered dividing the recipes into two separate posts - one about mushrooms and the other about beets - but they taste so good on a single plate, I had to keep them together. Here’s the breakdown:

Morel Stuffed Mushrooms: The mushrooms have a soft, extremely flavorful filling. Tart lemon juice and tangy sun-dried tomatoes balance the rich, earthy taste of mushrooms. These can be stuffed several days ahead and refrigerated until ready to finish, so make impressive hot appetizers without a lot of last minute work. Paired with two kinds of beets, as I’ve done here, the mushrooms are the foundation for a filling vegetarian meal.

Marinated Beets with Candied Red Onions: Sweet with candied onions (or honey, if you’re pressed for time), and sour with red wine vinegar, these beets fill your mouth with wonderful flavors. Grated lemon peel is the essential ingredient that brings the dish together. It’s terrific on its own, wonderful with Horta Salad, and remarkable when paired with Morel Stuffed Mushrooms.

Horta Salad: Boiled greens, dressed with lemon juice or vinegar, are a classic Greek salad. Any domesticated and wild greens, separately or together, can be used for this simple recipe.

The recipes were inspired by Sarah Stegner’s
Stuffed Mushrooms with Marinated Beets, described in Art Culinaire (Winter 2002). I loved her recipe's name, which immediately triggered my imagination. The details of Chef Stegner’s recipe diverged from what I’d been imagining, so I ended up using it for inspiration, rather than as a guide.

I particularly liked the morel powder Chef Stegner used in her stuffing. Last year we had an abundance of curiously bland morels, which I dried to concentrate, intensify, and improve their flavor. Powdered, our dried morels dramatically boosted the mushroomy earthiness of the stuffing.

Stuffed Mushrooms, Marinated Beets, and Horta SaladMorel Stuffed Mushrooms (Μανιτάρια Γεμιστά)
Makes 16 - 20
I ground the dried morels to a powder in a spice grinder. Without the morel powder the stuffing tasted great; it just wasn't as intensely flavored. On another note, I dread both soggy stuffed mushrooms and those that aren’t fully cooked. To avoid these problems, I use a technique for prebaking the mushrooms recommended by
Cook’s Illustrated.

16 - 20 large white mushrooms (or other variety of fresh mushroom)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Reserved mushroom stems, cut in 1/4” dice
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion, 1/4” dice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. diced reconstituted or oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4” dice
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup potato purée (6 ounce potato, cooked and grated)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mascarpone or cream cheese
1/4 cup dried morel powder (2 ounces dried morels, pulverized) (optional)
1/4 fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup Panko or fresh breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp. finely grated garlic

Prebake the Mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to clean off any dirt. Remove the mushroom stems and reserve for the stuffing. Put a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss the mushrooms with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Place the mushrooms on the rack gill-side-up and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the oven. Reserve any liquid in the mushrooms for the stuffing. Turn the mushrooms over and bake for 5 minutes. Set the mushrooms aside until you’re ready to stuff them.

Make the Stuffing: Sauté the mushroom stems and onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, in olive oil until they're browned. Stir regularly to prevent the onions from burning. When the mushrooms and onions are done, stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Place the onion mix in a bowl and stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, green onions, potato purée, parmesan, mascarpone, morel powder, lemon juice, salt, freshly ground black pepper, and any liquid reserved from the prebaked mushrooms. Taste and add lemon juice, salt, or pepper, as needed.

Make the Topping: Sauté the Panko in butter until it is nicely toasted, stirring regularly to prevent the breadcrumbs from burning. Stir in the lemon peel and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Let cool and put in a small bowl.

Assemble the Stuffed Mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using a spoon or piping bag, divide the stuffing equally among the mushrooms. Smoothly round off the surface of each stuffed mushroom. (The mushrooms may be made ahead to this point and refrigerated; store the mushrooms in a single layer, on a paper towel, to prevent them from turning soggy.)

Take each stuffed mushroom, turn it upside down, and roll the stuffing around in the topping until it is nicely coated with breadcrumbs. Bake the mushrooms for 10 – 12 minutes, or until they are hot and the topping is lightly browned. Let sit at room temperature 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with Marinated Beets and Horta Salad, or on their own as an appetizer.

Variation - Stuffed Mushrooms with Pancetta

The pancetta works as a savory counterpoint to the Candied Red Onions in the Marinated Beets recipe. To make the mushrooms with pancetta, eliminate the olive oil, and start the recipe by browning 3/4 cup (4 ounces) pancetta, cut in 1/4” dice. When the pancetta is done, drain it on paper towels; use the pancetta fat for sautéing the onions and mushroom stems. Mix the cooked pancetta with the rest of the stuffing ingredients. NOTE: For this recipe, thick-cut, deli pancetta works better than the thin-sliced prepackaged version.

Marinated Beets with Candied Red OnionsMarinated Beets with Candied Red Onions (Μαριναρισμένα Παντζάρια me Κρεμμύδια Γλυκά του Κουταλιού)
Serves 4 - 6
The key to this recipe, as with all sweet and sour dishes, is getting the balance of flavors correct. The only way to get it right is to taste and adjust the flavors for your palate. If you’re serving this with Horta Salad, keep its vinegar dressing in mind as you adjust the seasoning. Candied Red Onions add unique flavor, but honey is a fine substitute for them.

Candied Red Onions:
2 cups diced red onion, 3/4” dice
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water

Marinated Beets:
2 bunches beets, roots only
(greens used for Horta Salad)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp. minced thyme
2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel (1 lemon)
1 tsp. finely grated garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Candied Red Onions or 1/4 cup thyme honey

Make the Candied Red Onions: Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup. Watch it carefully at the end and stir regularly; once most of the liquid is gone, sugar syrup can burn easily. It takes 30 – 45 minutes for the syrup to reduce, and can be done while the beets are roasting. (The candied onions can be made well ahead. There may be slightly more candied onions than needed for this recipe.)

NOTE on Roasting Beets: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash the beets, cut off the greens leaving an inch of stem (don't cut into the beet itself), rub the beets with olive oil, and wrap tightly in a foil packet (or place in a tightly covered baking dish). Bake for 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how fresh they are. The beets are done when they're tender if poked with a knife or skewer. Let the beets cool, and slip off their skins (I wear gloves when I do this to protect my hands from staining). (These can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for about a week.)

Make the Marinated Beets: Cut the beets into 1/2” slices; quarter the slices. Put the beets in a bowl and mix with all the other ingredients. Let marinate at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Taste and add salt, freshly ground black pepper, vinegar, or candied red onion, as needed.

Serve with Horta Salad and Morel Stuffed Mushrooms, or on its own (or with Horta Salad) to accompany roast chicken or fish.

Horta Salad (Χόρτα Σαλάτα)

Serves 4 - 6
"Horta" is the generic Greek word for greens. This salad can be cooked ahead and dressed with olive oil, but don’t add vinegar until just before serving. If you buy beets without greens, or the greens aren’t in good enough condition to eat, use Swiss chard or any other greens.

2 bunches of beets, greens only
(roots used for Marinated Beets)
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash the greens very carefully and discard any damaged leaves. Remove the stems and cut into 1” pieces. Tear the greens into large pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the stems and cook for 2 minutes. Add the greens and cook for 3 – 5 minutes more, or just until the greens are tender. The cooking time varies depending on the type of greens being used. For example, Swiss chard cooks faster than beet greens. Be careful not to overcook the greens or their texture will suffer. Drain the greens well.

While the greens are still warm, toss with olive oil, and then with vinegar, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add vinegar, salt, pepper, or olive oil, as needed.

Serve hot or at room temperature with Marinated Beets and Morel Stuffed Mushrooms. Horta Salad can also be served on its own, or just with the Marinated Beets.

Other Interesting Vegetarian Mushroom Recipes
Parsnip Gnocchi with Pearl Onions, Peas, and Mushrooms
Mushroom Stifado (Μανιτάρια Στιφάδο)
Red Cabbage with Mushrooms and Blueberries – Chou Rouge Forestière (Λάχανο Κόκκινο με Μανιτάρια και βακκίνιο το Μύρτιλλο)

To find more mushroom recipes,
Food Blog Search is a great tool.
This is my entry for
No Croutons Required, hosted this month by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen.


Lisa Turner said...

Wow, not only do you offer up a mushroom dish, but you serve it with beets! Thanks Laurie for your entry!

Maria Verivaki said...

mushroom and beets should go well together, mushrooms acting like a kind of meat

Lucy said...

Well, the day may have begun with difficulties (I know how it feels - some days writing feels infiniely harder) but what a triumph.

And I have just the morels to use...

I hate a over- or under-cooked mushroom too!

Anonymous said...

This is a mushroom feast!! Oh goodness, It took me forever to go through this post because I kept stopping at each of these dishes to drool over and over.
I absolutely looove mushrooms and am so inspired by your great dishes here. I've had morels once, when I was in the backcountry of Washington state. My friend recognized them and picked a few and cooked them in butter!

Joanne said...

Being a vegetarian, I love everything about mushrooms and I cook with them often. Oyster mushrooms and shitake mushrooms are are some of my favourites and I do enjoy their subtle earthy flavour. I wonder how morel mushrooms taste? I have encountered morel mushrooms in gourmet cooking magazines but never at the market. I'd love to give them a try one day. Your recipe for morel stuffed mushrooms sounds so good and I love mascarpone cheese so I know this recipe is for me!!

LisaRene said...

Great tips for preparing the mushrooms. I particularly like the idea of adding the ground morels. Thanks for sharing!

Núria said...

Girl, no wonder your head was spinning before writing this down!!!!!!! What a post! Gorgeous bunch of ingredients, although I'm not a fan of beets, it looks increadible!!!

Katie Zeller said...

I love the candied onions! I can think of loads of things to do with them. I've been buying cooked beets lately, saves the cleaning and cooking bit (plus I can't buy them raw)
And I know exactly what you mean about notes on tiny pieces of paper... front and back...Arrrggghhh!

winedeb said...

Beets look fantastic and with your mushrooms, what a fun combination and a tasty one too!

Laurie Constantino said...

Lisa, beets and mushrooms are both very earthy foods and really go well together. I love No Croutons Required, thank you for organizing it!

Maria, yes, exactly. The mushrooms, particularly when augmented with the morel powder, are very filling.

Lucy, I live for the days when everything just clicks and the words flow easily. Now, if I could just bottle whatever it is that makes it possible...

WORC, mmmmmm, fresh picked morels in butter, now that is truly a taste treat and one that comes much too infrequently. You are lucky!

Bijoux, morels taste like the forest - they're a very flavorful mushroom and, when fresh, have an unusual chewy texture. I'd put them somewhere between oyster mushrooms and shiitakes on the flavor spectrum (more flavor than oysters and not as strong as shiitakes).

LisaRene, thanks for the kind words and for visiting!

Nuria, I'm hoping to convert you to beets! They can be very good - I recently made them with a Romesco sauce - yummy!

Katiez, I'm so surprised you can't buy raw beets in France - that's really a shame, though cooked beets would be a giant time saver.

Thanks, winedeb!