People often ask me if I ever have failures; recipes that just don't come out. When I laughingly tell them lots, then they want to know every sad and frustrating detail. But most of my failures I can't remember. Why would I want to fill my limited brain space with losers?
But here's one amusing failure that I've never forgotten. Back when I was writing cookbooks and traveling around the country giving cooking demonstrations, I was in a large auditorium in Seattle. One of the recipes I was demonstrating was a whole brie wrapped in puff pastry. (This was before everyone was doing that.) When I looked in the oven, the good news was that the puff pastry looked perfect, all puffed and golden. The bad news was that the oven floor was covered with melted brie. When I went to cut the pastry, there was no cheese left inside. It was completely hollow. I had failed to seal the pastry securely around the bottom to hold in the cheese. I told the audience that they would have a great time telling their guests how hard they worked to wrap puff pastry with nothing inside.
I'm not sure how I got onto failures when I was planning to write about a very successful evening I had creating three new vegetarian recipes. Oftentimes when I create a new recipe, the first time will be just a stepping stone to the second and third trials. But this particular night my vegetarian daughter, Caryn, was coming from Baltimore for dinner and I experimented with three new dishes that all came out great. My favorite was a portobello filled with shredded zucchini, garlic, green onions, and creamy spice cheese.
Portobellos are mature versions of small cremini, often called baby bellas. They are fat-free, very low in calories and a rich source of selenium, copper and niacin. Although the dark brown gills inside are fine to eat, you need to scrape them out with a spoon to make space for the filling. Just scrape out the bottom, leaving the gills under the outer rim to reinforce the edges.
My favorite way to serve these is as a first course for a dinner party. But they can also be the star of a vegetarian menu or a side dish with any grilled or roasted meat or fish. This recipe is so well tested that if someone asks you if you ever have failures, I guarantee that this will not be one of them.
Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Zucchini & Spice Cheese
These make a great vegetarian entree, appetizer, first course or vegetable dish. If you prefer to use smaller mushrooms, you will have enough filling for six 3-inch crimini or other whole mushrooms.
4 firm portobello mushroons (4 to 4½ inches in diameter)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 zucchini (15 oz.), shredded (3 cups)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 package (5 to 6 oz.) spice cheese (such as Boursin, Alouette or Rondelé)
4 green onions with 2-inches of tops, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
¼ cup plus 4 tablespoons panko bread crumbs, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Chives or green onion strips for garnish, optional
Break stem out of mushroom and discard. With a spoon, scoop out gills, leaving some around the rim to reinforce the edges. Rub mushroom caps with wet paper towel. Spray outside cap with nonstick vegetable coating or rub with olive oil. Place on rimmed baking sheet.
To make filling, heat olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and garlic and sauté until zucchini is dry, about 5 minutes. Stir in cheese until melted. Remove from heat and stir in onions and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs.
Spoon filling into mushroom caps. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon bread crumbs.
MAKE AHEAD: The mushrooms may be covered with foil and held at room temperature up to 4 hours or refrigerated for 8 hours.
Place oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 375°. Bake portobellos for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are tender and crumbs are golden. Garnish with an X of chives or slivered green onions tops, if desired.
Transfer to plates and serve with forks and knives.
Makes 4 servings.