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.
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Oh August. Why are you here already? I think August and September are my least favorite months. I’m 100% sure it’s because summer is coming to an end and school is about to start. Even though I’ve been out of school for four years. Those 16 Augusts and Septembers have scarred me.
It’s summer and it’s hot. (At least that’s what I hear about other parts of the country. It’s a cool 70ish by the time I get home from work, so our apartment is usually nice.) Why, oh why would I post a recipe that tells you to preheat your oven to 450 degrees? Because it’s so hot out that it’s probably already 350 degrees in there. Just kidding! Because this is a great recipe that allows you to take advantage of the fresh figs that are in season. And it’s a light dish that’s perfectly suited for warm weather. If you really don’t want to be fiddling with the oven at such a high temp, use a whole pita or large tortilla and bake for 5-10 minutes, based on how crispy you want your pizza. Most of the ingredients are staples, so the only things you may have to buy are an onion, figs, pizza dough, and ricotta. If you don’t have arugula, substitute fresh baby spinach. If you don’t have ricotta, maybe you’d like to substitute mozzarella. Or make it even lighter by just sprinkling some goat cheese over the top. Play around!
caramelized onion and fig pizzas
makes 2 small pizzas
- olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 8 oz whole wheat pizza dough (Half a package of the kind from Trader Joe’s)
- 3 figs, sliced
- 1/4 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup arugula
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Spray a large pan with olive oil. Turn heat to low and add onions. Stir frequently for about 20 minutes. The onions should first soften, then begin to turn brown as they become softer. If they start to get brown and crisp around the edges, reduce the heat. You can also spray them with a little more olive oil. This can take some time and patience, but the end product is well worth it! Obviously (and unfortunately) I haven’t perfected this (look at the sad onions in my photos).
Sprinkle some cornmeal on a baking sheet. Divide your dough into two portions, and using your hands, stretch and work the dough into a circle about 5 – 6 inches in diameter. Place it on the baking sheet. Evenly divide the ricotta amongst the two pieces of dough and spread, leaving a thin border for the crust. Lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the caramelized onions. Bake for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the arugula by tossing with balsamic vinegar and lightly sprinkling with salt and pepper.
When the pizzas are done baking, top with the arugula. Layer the figs on, sprinkle with thyme, then pop back into the oven just for a minute or two to warm the figs.
Looking for something to do with your leftover pizza dough? How about mushroom and goat cheese bechamel pizzas?
One of my problems with some food magazines is that the recipes are too difficult. Time consuming, and utlizing expensive ingredients, often I find myself sadly drooling over the photos because that’s about as close as I’m going to get to eating what’s pictured.
Below is, finally, an exception to that scenario. This pizza uses basic ingredients and is fairly quick. Double the béchamel sauce, if you’d like, and save some of it as a quick sauce to toss with any combination of pasta and vegetables for tomorrow night’s dinner.
mushroom and goat cheese béchamel pizzas
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 oz fresh goat cheese, thickly sliced
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 lb pizza dough
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1 lb assorted fresh mushrooms such as porcini, white button, or cremini, thinly sliced [I just use white button]
- 1 teaspoon thyme
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Oil a large baking sheet. In a medium saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter. Stir in 3 tablespoons of flour until it forms a thick paste. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring the sauce to a simmer over moderately high heat, whisking constantly until thick, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, until there is no floury taste, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to burn the sauce. Remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese until melted. Season with a pinch of nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Cut the pizza dough into 4 pieces. Lightly flour a clean working surface and roll each dough into a circle, about 6 inches in diameter. Dust the dough with flour and let sit for 15 minutes until slightly puffed.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally until tender and browned, about 15 minutes. discard the garlic. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Crush the dried thyme leaves between your fingers to release their oils and stir into the mushrooms.
Stretch the doughs out until they’re 9 inches in diameter and place them on a baking sheet. Brush the edges with olive oil and spread béchamel sauce in the center. Scatter mushrooms on top.
Bake for 5 minutes until the edges are crisp and the sauce is bubbling. Cut into wedges and serve!
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...