Monday, March 29, 2010

Stuffed portobellos over banosh

Too strapped to travel? Tell me about it. Only moments before writing this post I experienced a moment of panic thinking that the Mac had given out for good. Thankfully that was not the case.

One way to travel without spending any money is to learn about other cultures. I prefer to do this by reading a good book. (Shawn prefers Wikipedia for those sort of things.) Coincidentally, the last two books I read were set in Ukraine. And because I enjoyed both books, I thought that at least warranted a recipe.

Jonathan Safran Foer's magic-realist novel Everything is Illuminated takes place entirely in Ukraine (1791-present), while Cleaving* Julie Powell's follow-up memoir to Julie and Julia, takes only a brief detour to the country as part of Powell's world butchery tour.

This recipe was inspired by one that appears in Cleaving. (Yes, there are recipes in this book!) I adapted the only non-meat dish featured in the book — banosh,  a Ukrainian comfort food very similar to polenta, with sour cream replacing the butter an water of the more familiar recipe. I did not use the recipe in the book (because I already lent my copy to a friend), so I  followed this recipe that I found online.† The recipe states that the best way to serve banosh is to put two portions in separate bowls, and top one with goat cheese and the other with cooked and cut portabella mushrooms. I decided to do one better and stuffed portobellos with a goat cheese mixture as a complement to the banosh:



Marinated mushrooms:
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large fresh thyme sprigs (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
6 large portobello mushrooms

1 10-oz package frozen spinach
1 lb button mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped sweet onion
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup plus 6 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 5-oz package soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled


For marinated mushrooms:
Whisk first 6 ingredients and stir in the thyme. Cut stems from mushrooms and place stems in processor. Arrange mushrooms, gill side up, in a large glass baking dish. Pour marinade over mushrooms and marinate 4 hr, turning to coat occasionally.

For filling:
Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain and cool. Using hands, squeeze excess water from spinach. Place in small bowl.

Add half of the button mushrooms to processor with portobello mushroom stems. Using on/off turns, process until coarsely chopped. Transfer to medium bowl and repeat with remaining mushrooms. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add onion; sauté until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 3 min. Add garlic and stir 30 sec. Add chopped mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and increase heat to high. Cook until almost all liquid evaporates, stirring often, about 8 min. Season mushroom mixture with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl; cool to room temperature.

Add spinach, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and breadcrumbs to mushroom mixture; toss to distribute evenly. Add goat cheese and toss gently to distribute evenly. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400°. Transfer marinated mushrooms, with some marinade still clinging, to rimmed baking sheet, gill side down. Roast until beginning to soften, about 15 min. Turn mushrooms over. Divide filling among mushrooms. Sprinkle remaining 6 tbsp Parmesan over and bake until heated through and cheese begins to brown, about 15 min.

Serve over banosh.

Shawn said that he felt that he was eating gourmet burger which is highest praise for vegetarian dish, and this was a departure from what I usually cook. Though, if I really wanted a more complete experience, I could have gone to our local nordic spa and sweated out my toxins. (Cleaving taught me that this is a Ukrainian pastime as well.)  But since this recipe takes about 5 hours from start to finish, I thought that I should probably cut this staycation short.



*Don't give too much credence to the abundance of negative Amazon reviews. I thought this was a great read.
†I used a ratio of 1 part cornmeal to 2 parts sour cream and the banosh became much too thick. Add cornmeal with caution.

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