Portobello mushrooms are often disparaged as an easy, boring stand-in for meat when cooking vegetarian meals. Among the all of the bland mushroom "burgers," it's easy to forget one of the portobello's most useful characteristics—its stuffability. Take, for instance, the stuffed mushrooms from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Ottolenghi cookbook. They braise the caps with a mixture of butter, wine, thyme, and garlic. Over the slow cooking time, the mushrooms absorb every last nuance of the braising liquid, emerging tender and fragrant. Pearled barley, tangy preserved lemon, and salty feta make up the bulk of the stuffing, and the final dish is crowned with a flurry of sprouts.
Why I picked this recipe: Stuffed mushrooms simply don't get enough attention. It's time to correct that.
What worked: The feta and preserved lemon were a particularly smart inclusion here, as their sharp saltiness tempered the deep, earthy notes of the braised mushrooms.
What didn't: I thought the proportion of barley to broth was off. I didn't need nearly that much broth or that long of a cooking time to turn the barley tender. You should safely be able to cut back to 2 cups of broth, and you can cook the barley for 30 to 45 minutes.
Suggested tweaks: If you want to make these gluten-free, you could use quinoa or millet in place of the barley. (The cooking times will change accordingly.) If you can't find preserved lemons, you can substitute the zest of one lemon and increase the amount of salt in the stuffing. I used pea sprouts instead of the basil or radish sprouts. They weren't purple, but they still added a nice crisp contrast to the dish.
Reprinted with permission from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- For the Pearled Barley:
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 3 cups (750 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
- heaping 1/2 cup (110 g) pearled barley
- 1/4 preserved lemon, flesh removed and skin finely chopped
- 1 3/4 ounce (50 g) feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons purple basil sprouts, radish sprouts, or purple basil leaves, shredded
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the Mushrooms:
- 7 tablespoons (100 g) unsalted butter
- 15 sprigs thyme
- 6 large portobello mushrooms
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) dry white wine
- 1 cup (180 ml) vegetable stock
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First cook the barley. Heat sunflower oil in a heavy-based saucepan and sauté onion and garlic until translucent. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in barley, lower heat, then cover and simmer for 1 hour, until all the liquid has been absorbed and barley is tender.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Take a large baking sheet and grease it heavily with 2/3 of the butter. Scatter thyme sprigs over it. Stem mushrooms and place mushroom caps, stem side up, on top of thyme. Pour over wine and stock and scatter sliced garlic over. Dot each mushroom with a couple of knobs of remaining butter, then season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until mushrooms are tender. Leave them in their cooking juices until you are ready to serve.
When barley is done, remove pan from heat and stir in the preserved lemon, feta, parsley, and thyme. Taste and add salt and pepper. To serve, reheat the mushrooms in the oven for a few minutes, if necessary. Place each mushroom, stem side up, on a serving plate. Scoop barley on top and spoon some of the mushroom cooking juices over. Garnish with basil sprouts and drizzle over olive oil.