as i’ve told most people within listening distance, my boyfriend cooks like a french chef. while that means it takes an army of sous chef to clean up after him (moi, unless i pass out because we’re eating at 10pm, then he does it quite nicely on his own), it does indeed mean he’s a marvelous thing to have around the kitchen. between his genius and my own culinary handiness, we come up with some pretty good stuff. i don’t remember nearly often enough to write down the shining diamonds in my kitchen grimoire, so here’s our first installment of tasty tuesday.
i had a big party at the house 2 weekends ago, for which we’d bought 2 large packs of portobello mushrooms¹. all this past week/end, we’ve been working on creative ways to use them up² before they went off, so today we have a 2fer. no.1 requires portobellos specifically, while no.2 can use any mushrooms (or none at all if you don’t like ’em).
1. portobello “pizza”
prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 10ish minutes
pita³ factor: minor, you just have to briefly juggle one thing in the stove and one in the oven.
trim off and discard any dried out edge to the stem. remove the stem, and mince into small pieces. if there’s not much stem, add some of whatever kind of mushroom you have in the house, and mince it up too. mince some red bell pepper and some onion, so all these items are in pieces about 1cm cubed or less. place a pan on the stove on medium-high heat, add some olive oil and garlic, then add in all the chopped veggies. tear up baby spinach into the sautéing veggies, and stir occasionally. now that that’s simmering along, place the portobello dome-side-up on a baking sheet. spritz a bit of olive oil (the kind in a spray can works great for this) on top, and pop in a 350ish oven for 3-5 minutes. these 2 things will be done at about the same time. take out the portobello, flip it over to gill-side-up, and spoon your veggie mix on top to cover. add a few small dollops of soft goat cheese, pop back into the oven for 2+ minutes, until the cheese softens. if you’re a devoted carnivore, add some shredded prosciutto or other cured pork after the baby spinach; otherwise, it’s a hearty vegetarian dish that works fine as the entrée or as an interesting side dish.
2. pesto & vegetable white pizza
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 10-15 minutes
pita factor: prep involves cutting up a bunch of stuff, but there’s no complicated cooking techniques. we’re making finger food here.
i’m a huge fan of trader joe’s pizza dough. it’s a buck for enough dough to cover my largest cookie sheet, though the ball looks small when you first start working with it. it’s sold in white, wheat, or herb – this variant uses the herb. if you’re TJ’s free and your store doesn’t carry raw dough, look for pizza dough in the frozen section, use a boboli shell, or make dough from scratch (which is simple but sadly ups the pita factor). line your cookie sheet with foil (that way, you toss the foil when you’re done, and you don’t have to scrub your cookie sheets), spray with non-stick cooking spray, and lightly sprinkle with flour. work the dough in your hands (squeeze, toss back and forth like a ball) for a few minutes to make sure it’s not cold (cold dough is hard to shape and doesn’t rise right). patiently press out the dough my making small chops with a fist or the side of your hand until you’ve evenly distributed the dough all over your cookie sheet – this will take some time, but don’t get frustrated if the dough springs back to the center a bit, it IS working its way out there. once the dough is as big as you’d like, plop a generous quantity of pesto on and spread to an even thin layer with the back of your spoon. pop into a 450ish oven for 3 minutes – this lets the pesto bake into the crust and prevents the whole from ending up greasy. meanwhile, we’re going to do something similar to the stovetop step in no.1 – cut peppers, onions, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli florets (go crazy with whatever veggies you like), into bite-size chunks and sauté them in olive oil + garlic on medium-high heat. tear up baby spinach into the sautéing veggies if you like, and stir occasionally. this only has to be cooked long enough for the onions to just start to turn clear a little; the crust is likewise only par-cooked. pull the crust out of the oven, spread a thin layer of alfredo sauce on top, add your veggies, sprinkle on a bit of finely chopped fresh basil if you like that fresh zing, and top with thin slices of fresh mozzarella. back into the oven until the cheese is bubbly & melty, and then you’re done. use a large knife to lift up the crust and look underneath to see if it’s cooked as well in the center – if not, put it back in, turn off the oven and just let it finish in the heat in there.
¹your trivia tidbits for the day: the wiki page tells us that a)portobello and portabella are both equally correct for naming the large, broad, dark brown queens of the grill and b)white buttons, baby bella/crimini, and portobellos are all the same species! turns out that as the mushroom gets older, its color and flavor both get richer.
²random note on mushroom cleanliness: i don’t wash them. ever. i know this weirds some people out, but that’s ok. i don’t like the gills on the underside to trap a bunch of water and make things soggy, and store-bought mushrooms are grown in a rather sterile media. knock the big chunks of dirt off if you like, but don’t feel compelled to do more than that.
³as in, how much of a pain in the ass this is to put together and clean up afterward.