Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Potluck-y

Whether you mark this time of year with marshmallow chicks, matzo or a maypole, I think it's a pretty fine time to be alive. It's a time of triumph, really: over mortality, over adversity, over darkness. That's how some of our major religions slice it. But you don't need a set of dogma to feel cheered by green's victory over grey.

I got to celebrate Easter with most of my favorite people outside my bloodline, and yes, I felt like a lucky duck to be surrounded by such wonderful friends and a-freaking-mazing food. My apartment really felt like a home as soup simmered, onions brown and crusts baked last Sunday afternoon. My friend floored me with their culinary chops (quiches: feta, kalamata and asparagus, the other with apricot, peach and stilton), ingenuity (and improvised
potato and scallion soup), and resourcefulness (the food biz provided a scavenged salad and spring rolls accompanied by the best peanut sauce in Boston). 
I brought to the table (literally, woo!) portabello mushrooms stuffed with quinoa and spinach. My tye-A chef-y side prepped the day before; I just put them in the oven and let everyone else have at the kitchen. Admittedly, what I made was tame and health-foody compared to the robust flavors of the rest of the meal, but hey, I keeps it real like dat.

This is an ingredient-short but prep-heavy dish, but you can do near all of it at least a day before you serve it. You could even do the quinoa-spinach mixture two day prior, bake the mushrooms and assemble the day before and reheat when it's dinner time. Anything with this many steps is suitable for company. After all, your effort is a way to give to your family and friends for free.

Quinoa and Spinach-Stuffed Portabellos
8-10 portabello mushroom caps (plan on serving one per person as a side, two if it's a main dish)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable stock
12oz fresh spinach or one bag frozen (thawed and super-well-pressed for moisture if frozen)
olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic clove,s minced
1 bunch chevril or parsley, chopped
2-3oz nice Swiss, like Emmantaler or Havarti (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Clean the portabello caps with a dry paper towel and scrape out the gills with a small spoon. Use a gentle hand, as the cap will break under too much pressure (for those of us not used to handling textured, meaty ingredients, this part is really cool). Discard those insides. Place the caps (cap-side down, hollowed-out side up) on a non-stick baking sheet and spray or lightly drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until you smell the earthy mushrooms and they start to release their juices. SAVE THAT JUICE! Take the mushrooms off the pan and drain the juice into a small bowl for extra flava in the quinoa...

Bring two cups of water or stock to a boil and add the quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Add the reserved mushroom juice and let the quinoa sit for a few minutes.

In a large saute pan, add few tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until just softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chevril or parsley and stir until just heated. Add the spinach and stir to coat. Stir occasionally to uniformly wilt the spinach, about 8 minutes. Combine the quinoa and spinach mixture in a large bowl and season with sea salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.

Add a heaping tablespoon-full of the quinoa-spinach mixture to the portabello caps. Top with some grated or shaved Emmantaler if desired (I did some with and without). Bake until the filling is hot, the portabellos are juicy and until the cheese -if using- is just bubbling. Serves five as an entree, 8 or more as a side dish.

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