Food Vegetarian Cooking

Vegan Panko-Crusted Portobello Caps

These satisfying stuffed mushrooms are perfect as an entree or appetizer ... though we doubt you'll want to share.

It took me three years into dating my husband (then boyfriend) to finally learn that mushrooms and eggplant are not a satisfactory substitute for meat. Turns out, texture is a big deal for meat eaters.

For those three years, I was under the impression that because these ingredients had been referred to as “meaty” by most Food Network chefs, they were chunky and substantial enough to fill the void of not having meat on the plate. My husband politely tolerated three years of mushroom pasta dishes and eggplant in curries and stews until finally he broke the news that he actually disliked the texture of both, with one exception: portobellos. That was the green light I needed to incorporate these friendly fungi into more dishes, and what better way than to stuff them with a rich, savory filling?

Too often I have found restaurants stuff mushrooms with crabmeat, bacon, or other ingredients not suitable for those who follow a plant-based lifestyle, even though mushrooms themselves are popular with many vegetarians and vegans. Therefore, I used some of my favorite ingredients to create a vegan, healthier take on a pesto filling that’s packed with nutrients from super greens while still leaving everyone at the table — herbivores and omnivores alike — satisfied.

Nutrient-rich

Mushrooms are packed with vitamins and nutrients, such as many B vitamins that help with cell reproduction, calming skin irritation and keeping skin moist. They also contain  copper and selenium, which promote overall skin health and elasticity. Most people discard the mushroom stems because the woody flavor can be too strong, and the gills can be hard to clean or create an unfavorable dark color in food. But if cleaned (do not wash!) and cooked well, I feel these parts shouldn’t be wasted as they offer additional nutrients and a more complex taste, which helps hide the fact there is no dairy, seafood, or meat in this recipe.

Tips for Taste

I love arugula, but you can play around with the proportions of arugula, spinach and basil listed below. Note that basil will give you a slightly sweeter flavor and aroma, while arugula has a stronger, almost spicy taste that hints of mustard. You can probably also use any kind of breadcrumbs, though my favorite is panko for its added crunchy texture.

Instead of tossing raw garlic into the food processor for the filling, I decided to sauté it, to let it release its aroma, but keep its pungency in check. Finally, to serve the dish, I recommend placing the caps on a bed of arugula, and drizzling balsamic vinegar or glaze over the greens since the savory mushroom filling plays well with balsamic’s tartness. These can be served 2-3 pieces a person to top a salad as an entree, or 1-2 pieces a person if served as an appetizer to share– though I doubt you’ll be able to!

Vegan Panko-Crusted Portobello Caps

Serves: 2-3 servings as a meal, 3-6 servings as an appetizer

Ingredients 

  • 6 portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 large cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. of dry herbs, such as oregano, rosemary, or thyme
  • 2 cups of fresh arugula
  • 1 cup of fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup of fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup of lightly salted cashews
  • 1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs
  • 4-6 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt

Optional:

  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar/glaze
  • 4-5 sun-dried tomatoes

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. Wipe down mushroom with a clean, damp paper towel or cloth to remove dirt.
  3. Remove stems from portobello. With a spoon, carefully scoop out the “gills” underneath the mushroom cap.  Roughly chop the mushroom gills and stems. Set aside.
  4. In a pan, heat two teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for roughly 3-5 minutes, or until golden. Once golden, add the chopped mushroom gills and stems.
  5. Give the gills and stems several minutes to release their juices. Add dry herbs as desired, and throw in a pinch of salt. Once the stems have browned and turned soft, remove from stove.
  6. In a food processor, add your greens (arugula, spinach, basil), cashews, sun-dried tomatoes, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and blend until the mixture turns into a soft paste. Add salt to taste.
  7. Place hollow portobello caps on a greased baking sheet with the top of the caps facing up. Brush the caps lightly with olive oil and place it in the oven for about 3 minutes, or until dark brown and soft. Remove from oven when finished.
  8. Turn the caps over, and spoon in your filling into the hollow portion of the cap. Then, top the filled side with panko breadcrumbs and drizzle, spray or brush lightly with olive oil.
  9. Place the sheet of filled mushroom caps (filled side up) in the oven to bake for about 3-5 minutes, and broil for another 2-3 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs have turned golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and serve warm on its own, or over a bed of greens dressed in balsamic.

Fanatical about fungi?

Do you love all things mushroom or just a specific type? What is your favorite way to prepare mushrooms? Let me know your preferred varieties and preparations in the comments!

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