Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Portobello, the Giant Mushroom

Large Portobello Mushroom, compared to a can of tuna
I've got a new obsession with the ginormous mushrooms you've probably seen in stores, known as 'Portobello Mushrooms'. When immature and white, this mushroom may be known as common mushroom, button mushroom, crimini mushroom and champignon. When immature and brown it may be known as cremini/crimini mushroom, chestnut mushroom or Swiss, Roman or Italian Brown Mushroom. When mature they are known as Portobello Mushrooms, (also Portabella and Portobella).

One of the things I like most about the Portobello Mushroom is their 'meaty' quality. This may sound odd because it is a vegetable after all, but the texture is satisfying, dense and well... just meaty! And you never have to worry about food safety, cross contamination or internal temperatures! For vegetarians, they make a great meat substitute without relying on processed soy alternatives. Portobello Mushrooms can be grilled, roasted, sauteed, stuffed or baked. They are a quick side dish or vegetarian meal served as 'steaks', 'burgers' or stuffed with your favorite filling as a hearty main course. The mushroom itself is low in calories and a good source of plant based protein.

Sauteed Portobello slices with onion

The key to success with this giant is to enhance the fairly neutral flavor with a marinade or seasonings that will play up their earthy factor. Easy marinades can include; balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, granulated garlic, (Note: avoid fresh minced garlic because it may burn), black pepper, cayenne, rosemary and fresh thyme. Marinate for only 10-20 minutes, no longer than 30 minutes. If in a marinade for too long they may get a slimy texture that is not appealing.

Often I've heard that people don't know what they can and can't eat of the Portobello. The stems are technically edible but sometimes have a 'woody' texture, although I have not found this to be true... so far! The stem can easily be pulled off with your hands and used for another recipe, in bone broth or discarded. To clean the mushroom, rub off any dirt with a dry cloth. Some people remove the darker 'gills' with a spoon, they are edible so if they don't bother you, skip this process. I would however suggest to remove the gills if you are going to marinade and grill them or when making stuffed/baked recipes.

Because of their size and weight, Portobellos can be quite expensive. Look for them at Costco for a descent price, in packages of 3-5 (depending on size) and grown in Langley, BC. Choose mushrooms that are firm and the edge of the cap curves under, not flared out. The flared caps have an older and inferior texture. For an example, scroll to the bottom of this page to the 2 Portobellos in marinade. The mushroom cap on the left is still curved, the one on the right is slightly flared out and a bit ragged looking. 

If you love mushrooms and this is your first time with a ginormous Portobello, fear not!! You're now equipped to enjoy its versatility, ease of preparation, quick cooking time and 'meaty' texture!

This is my recent Paleo Diet, go-to obsession; a fast, simple and delicious side dish or snack! Leftovers are great in any number of incarnations.  Note: *ghee is clarified butter.

Mise en place

2 medium or 1 very large portobello mushroom
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
1-2 Tbsp. coconut oil or *ghee
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Optional seasonings; granulated garlic, thyme, rosemary
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (sulphite free for Paleo Diet)

Clean the portobello mushroom, remove the stem and slice the mushroom cap 1/2" thick. Heat 1 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee in a stainless steel fry pan over medium heat. Place mushroom slices in the pan but don't overlap. If the pan seems dry, add more oil or ghee. Saute until golden brown then turn over each slice, add more ghee if the pan seems dry. Place the onion slices around the mushrooms so they have contact with the pan. Season with salt, pepper and any optional seasonings, push them around a bit with tongs so they lightly brown. When the mushrooms and onions are caramelized, remove from the heat and immediately, pour in the balsamic. Toss or stir quickly to coat all and move to a serving plate. Serve warm.
**NOTE: leftovers are delicious chopped up and stirred into scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Sauteed Portobello with Onions and Balsamic Vinegar

PORTOBELLO SANDWICH       Yield: 1 sandwich
Although not Paleo, this recipe is a favorite from my cookbook 'For the Love of Food'. Who said you need meat to get a messy, juicy, run down your arms burger? This sandwich is just that! The amazing crusty roll in the photos was purchased at 'The Church Street Bakery' in Comox, BC. 

Meaty, juicy, messy, run down your arms goodness!
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
10-12 capers, minced
Pinch of red chili flakes
1/4 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme, remove & mince leaves
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large portobello mushroom
1 large crusty roll
    or 2 slices sourdough bread
Dijon mustard 
Avocado slices, optional

Preheat oven to 400F. Clean the portobello, remove the stem and leave the gills intact. Mix butter with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, chili, garlic and thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper and spoon over the inside gills of the mushroom cap. Bake in a parchment paper lined pan for 10-15 minutes, check and add another 8-10 minutes or until tender. 
Toast the crusty roll or sourdough bread and spread with Dijon mustard.Top with baked mushroom, it will look very juicy, don't worry, the bun will absorb most of it. Cover with the other half of bun or bread. Press down firmly and cut. Add the avocado slices if desired.

GRILLED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS         Yield: 4 portobello mushrooms
These simple, grilled Portobellos are perfect as a side dish, mushroom burger or vegetarian 'steak'. Avocado oil is Paleo compliant and used for its high smoke point.
Marinate for 15, no longer than 30 minutes

4 medium/large Portobello mushrooms
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar (sulphite free *for Paleo)
1 Tbsp. avocado oil
1 Tbsp. coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
2 sprigs chopped fresh rosemary (about 1 Tbsp.)
1 tsp. granulated garlic 
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
Avocado oil for grilling

Wipe the mushrooms clean, remove the stem and gills. In a shallow baking dish whisk together marinade ingredients; balsamic vinegar, avocado oil, coconut aminos, rosemary, granulated garlic, and coarse black pepper. Place the mushrooms in the marinade and turn to coat, spoon a bit of marinade into each cap. Marinate for 10 minutes, turn and marinate another 8 minutes. 

Heat a BBQ grill or grill pan to about 400F. Brush the grill or pan with avocado oil. Remove the mushrooms from marinade and shake off any excess. Reserve remaining marinade for basting. Grill for 3-4 minutes per side, or until caramelized, golden brown and softened. Basting with reserved marinade as they cook. Serve warm as a mushroom burger or slice for a side dish or vegetarian 'steak'.

Until next time ... Happy Easter and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae
Recipes by Sally Rae

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Finally, Welcome Signs of Spring!

Storm #3 Denman Island ~ February 12th 2019
Most of Canada and the US had a rough 2018/19 winter and Denman Island was no exception. The fall brought high winds, broken trees, power outages and rain. By mid January we had high temperatures and spring like weather. Everyone was out pruning orchards, the daffodils hung heavy with buds ready to pop open... on Vancouver Island, Victoria was in bloom! I picked the 4 remaining large cabbage from my garden and made a big batch of Dill Pickle and Garlic Kraut. In the garden, garlic shoots were poking through the maple leaf mulch. We were even contemplating mowing the lawn ... in January!!
Storm #3 Denman Island ~ February 12th 2019
Too quickly all our 'BC weather boasting' went down the tubes as a polar vortex set in. By February 3rd we had a dusting of dry Alberta-style snow and cold winds whipped us from the north. Next came the storm systems, dumping snow in white-out conditions about every second day, to an accumulation of over 31 inches. The temperatures stayed cold and you want to bet I was not happy. I left Edmonton to get away from this kind of weather. We had snow and ice on the ground for almost 6 weeks. I can't remember in the past 29 years on Denman ever having snow on the ground for that long.
Yesterday we finally got the lawn mowed, there has been no rain to speak of for months. Most of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands were already in a state of drought in March! Last month I had to start watering the garden; garlic, strawberries and kale. With the temperatures now at daytime highs of up to 21C and lows still around 6C, if this crazy weather isn't climate change I don't know what is. I'm now seeing the damage from the cold. My rosemary plant has died, the strawberries are slowly growing, the garlic looks okay although much smaller than the April 2016 crop.
Garlic - April 2nd 2019

Seascape Strawberries - April 2nd 2019
Today, April 2nd 2019, I dressed the strawberries with my organic fertilizer mix, they seem to be struggling but some plants have blossoms starting. The garlic beds got a good helping of blood meal and I'm watering now every second day, waiting for rain!

Hardening off the seedlings
My seedlings are in desperate need of transplanting but with the warm days, they are on the deck to harden off a bit, then back into the sunroom for the cool nights. I put up my two little portable greenhouses on the weekend but it is still too cold at night to put anything in them. At least they are ready when the weather changes to warmer nights. I have started squash seeds early following my experiment last summer. 
Portable greenhouses

At the end of April 2018, I put out a 'Partenon Zucchini', a self pollinating variety, and a 'Sunshine Winter Squash', both from William Dam Seeds. Each plant was mulched, covered with a cloche, then straw around and covering about half of the cloche on the outside. It worked!! I was eating zucchini from my garden when others were just getting them into the ground. This year, I am going to experiment with early squash planting on a larger scale. 

I'm anxious to get out in the garden and get dirt under my fingernails ... horray for Spring, finally!
Until next time ... Happy Spring and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae