In my junior year of college, I lived in a house with two other girls, one of whom was also a vegetarian. This was before the food blog era. Most of my recipes during this time came from bargain vegetarian books, printouts from FoodNetwork.com, or Everyday Food Magazine. From time to time, I would look through my roommate’s cookbooks.
The very first Thanksgiving I cooked was during this year. I did roast my first turkey, which I was told was good, but I was a vegetarian and didn’t try it. For my main course, I came across a recipe that sounded really great. It was a mixture of celery, leeks, lentils, mushrooms, and nuts, all stuffed between layers of phyllo dough. It sounded very similar to the vegan nut roast served in the cafeteria (which I was introduced to my freshman year, which was awesome!)
I decided to try this mushroom nut concoction out and LOVED it. A light, crunchy phyllo layer surrounded an herbed, earthy mixture that went perfectly with gravy and cranberry sauce.
Why I didn’t photocopy the recipe or write it down is beyond me, because for the next five years I tried over and over again to replicate it. I’d come close, but there was always something that just wasn’t right. Finally I decided to ditch the messy phyllo dough and use puff pastry. Somehow the stars finally aligned, because with that change, I’d also found the perfect combination of the rest of the ingredients, a simple mushroom gravy recipe, and I’m finally content.
This recipe takes some time, but it’s mostly time spent prepping the ingredients. It’s a great main course for a vegetarian holiday meal or any time during the winter. It’s excellent served alongside green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes.
This recipe is forgiving. If you want to do a cheaper version, use white button mushrooms and yellow or brown onions in place of the wild and portobello mushrooms and leeks.
mushroom nut roast
makes 8 servings
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
- 1/3 cup green lentils
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped leeks OR 2 finely chopped onions
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 6 medium white button mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 ounce (3/4 cup) dried wild mushrooms (porcini, oyster, portabello, morel) OR 5 ounces white button or portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable broth
Allow the puff pastry to thaw for about 40 minutes.
Cook the lentils according to package instructions.
If using, soak the dried wild mushrooms in a bowl of 1 1/4 cups hot water for about 20 minutes. Squeeze the excess water out of the mushrooms and into the bowl. Reserve 1 cup of the mushroom water and set aside to use for gravy. Finely chop the mushrooms.
In a pan over low heat, toast the nuts until fragrant, stirring frequently to keep from burning. Remove from heat and place in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are ground into a fine texture. Transfer to a large bowl.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks (or onions), celery, and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes, until everything begins to soften. Add all the mushrooms and saute until soft. Add to the bowl of ground nuts.
Add the lentils, vegetable broth, breadcrumbs, oregano, thyme, sage, and basil. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Crack one egg into a bowl and beat. Pour over the mushroom mixture and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Roll out the puff pastry. It should be wide enough to fit inside your loaf pan, covering both long walls, with enough overhang on each side to fold back over the filling we put inside.
Place the puff pastry in the loaf pan. Evenly spread the mushroom mixture into the pan, pushing down to compact it if it seems like there’s too much. Stretch and fold the flaps of pastry over the filling, enclosing it.
Beat the second egg in a small bowl. Brush the egg over the top of the pastry. You won’t need to use all of it, just give it a nice, even coating. This will help the loaf to brown.
Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown. Slice and serve with the mushroom gravy recipe below.
makes 8 servings
- 4 ounces white button mushrooms
- 4 ounces portabello mushrooms
- 1 cup reserved mushroom water
- 1 can vegetable broth (add 1 cup plain water if not using reserved mushroom water)
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch or flour
- Dried sage
- Dried thyme
- salt and pepper
Saute the mushrooms in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil until soft.
In a saucepan, mix the vegetable broth and mushroom water (or regular water) with the cornstarch or flour until smooth. Add the mushrooms and the herbs, to taste.
Heat the gravy over medium-high heat until your desired thickness is reached, adding cornstarch or flour as needed to thicken it. If it’s too thick, add some water or vegetable broth.
The first time I ever had pesto, it was homemade. After tasting this, I can never imagine eating the drab premade pestos you can buy in a jar at the supermarket. And once you make this sauce, you’ll never touch that stuff again either! It requires a blender or food processor, and is precisely the reason why I bought a food processor when I moved into my first apartment alone.
Uses: toss with pasta, dip crackers or veggies in it, smear it on a toasted baguette, put it on a sandwich, use as a pizza sauce… Sometimes I even put it on my morning eggs. You’ll find plenty of ways to use this all up. Trust me. It’s that good!
One of my favorite ways to use pesto at home is tossed with bow tie pasta, cherry or grape tomatoes, and feta cheese.
In the unlikely event you’ve got too much pesto on your hands, put the extra in an ice cube tray, lightly cover with plastic, and freeze. When they’re solid, pop them out using a knife and throw them in a ziploc bag. Keep them in the freezer and you’ll have pesto sauce ready in a moment’s notice.
The recipe comes out thick, so if you’re using it with pasta, go ahead and leave a little bit of water in your pasta (about a tablespoon per cup of cooked pasta), then spoon the pesto over top and mix until well coated and the sauce gets slightly creamy.
fresh basil pesto
- 8 large stems of fresh basil
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or 3/4 cup walnuts, cashews, or almonds (in a pinch, any of these will do!)
- 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 garlic gloves
- Kosher salt or table salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Put all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, into a blender or food processor. Pulse until the mixture becomes coarse. Stream in the olive oil. The pesto will be thick and bright green – a vivid color you’ll never find in a jar!
I haven’t yet described my love affair with pesto. The problem is, it’s not the lightest dish in the world (but it’s sooo worth it sometimes. A lot of times). But when it’s the middle of February and you’re still trying to ease the damage you did over the holidays, this recipe will do just fine as a replacement.
The original calls for parsley, but not being a huge fan of parsley, I nixed that real quick, replacing with basil. This recipe is heavy on the lemon flavor, which balances well with the buttery tasting beans. The broccoli is a surprising but healthful, fiber-packed way to stretch the sauce out without adding fat and calories.
pasta with white beans and light broccoli pesto
- coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 bunch broccoli, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
- 10 ounces fusilli pasta
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 teaspoons water
- 1/2 ounce grated Parmesan
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Cook broccoli in a large pot of boiling salted water, until bright green, about 4 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon and put into a food processor.
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Save 2 cups of the pasta water and drain the rest. Return the pasta to the pot.
In the food processor, add oil, water, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, basil, and garlic. Puree until smooth.
Add the pesto to the pasta. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce, adding water as necessary to thin it out. Add the beans and heat until warm. Season to taste with salt and pepper and top with additional Parmesan.
to anyone. You don't have to know a lot about cooking or be a foodie to prepare and enjoy nutritious homecooked meals! Read more...