Last week’s Foodie Friday celebrated the immune-boosting superstars of the mushroom world. This week, we celebrate the incredibly versatile portobello mushroom…
Portobello mushrooms, often described as meaty, are a popular meat substitute in plenty of recipes. Their reputation is understandable; the portobello is a robust, dense mushroom, with a pleasingly toothsome chewiness about it, and with a great flavor.
Portobello, crimini, and the common field mushroom share a lot in common. The crimini and the field mushroom are color variants of the same species, and the crimini is the young version of the portobello. So, a bit like our own relatives, they’re similar but different.
Like all the other mushrooms, portobello are low in calories, carbohydrates, and sodium, and free of cholesterol and fat. And, like all the other mushrooms, the portobello contains selenium and polyphenols making it an excellent source of antioxidants; it also provides you with vitamins C and D, as well as minerals, fiber, and protein. Portobello mushrooms offer three important B-complex vitamins: riboflavin (maintains healthy red blood cells); niacin (for supple skin and digestive and nervous system support); and pantothenic acid (helps release energy from your food intake).
Although mushrooms contain some amount of vitamin D, mycologist Paul Stamets discovered in 2004 that the level of vitamin D in freshly picked, indoor-grown shiitake mushrooms rose from 110 international units (IU) to 46,000 IU when the mushrooms were placed in the outdoor sun for six hours with the gills facing up (the level rose to 10,900 UI when the gills were facing down). The same effect holds true for other mushroom types, so eating mushrooms that have been exposed to sunshine can be an excellent way to boost your vitamin D levels.
On top of all these great reasons for making portobello mushrooms a regular part of your diet is another: they’re delicious! They’re also versatile. You’ve probably tried them as a vegetarian option to a burger, but get ready to try this alternative to stuffed bell peppers. This is an easy dish to make for a quick dinner, and thanks to the healthy stuffing of leafy greens and tomatoes, it’s full of densely nutritious flavor. Give yourself a treat, and try it soon!
Use mushrooms of about the same size so that they all cook in the same time.
If you can, buy flattish mushrooms rather than cupped – flatter ones are easier to stuff. If necessary, you can trim off a thin slice to flatten out the mushroom cap a bit.
Although I tend to peel mushrooms before using them, it isn’t necessary. In fact, it’s a habit I’m trying to break myself of!
I usually remove the gills from portobello mushrooms, but not always. (If you do decide to remove them, it’s a lot easier to remove them when they’re raw than when they’re cooked.) I removed them for this recipe to create more room for the stuffing.
Because mushrooms don’t contain any chlorophyll, they can grow without sunlight. They absorb and concentrate whatever medium they grow in – whether good or bad – so it’s important to use organically grown mushrooms.
4 organic portobello mushrooms, caps wiped or peeled, stalks removed, trimmed, and chopped finely
1/4 tsp dried oregano or dried basil (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C, gas mark 4).
Remove the gills from the mushroom and discard.
Place mushrooms on a cookie sheet, gill side up, and cook for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the tomatoes into a sieve and let drain until the juice stops dripping (give the sieve a couple of shakes to help the draining along). This will yield approximately 2/3 cup of tomatoes.
In a skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until it begins to soften.
Mix in the garlic and the mushroom stalk pieces, cook for a minute or two.
Stir in the leafy greens and cook just until they start to wilt.
Stir in the drained tomatoes and cook for a couple more minutes. The mix should be quite dry.
Add the oregano or basil if using, and remove the pan from the heat.
Remove the mushrooms from the oven, drain any liquid that has gathered in the caps.
Divide the tomato mixture evenly between the mushrooms, packing the mixture in quite densely.
Top each mushroom with a scrape of nut-based ricotta (optional).
Return mushrooms to the oven, cook for 10-15 minutes until heated through and tender.
I used a store-bought mix of chard, kale, and spinach for the leafy greens, but you can adjust this to suit your taste. If you use all kale, it might take a minute or so longer before it wilts in the pan. If using loose chard or kale, rip out the stems before using. If you want to include the stems in the stuffing mix, chop them finely and add to the pan two or three minutes before the leaves.
You can make this recipe fat free by omitting the cheese and by “frying” the onion in some of the drained tomato juice.
You can assemble the stuffed mushroom caps the day before you need them. Store in the fridge and bring to room temperature before cooking them in the oven.
For a bit of crunch, you can add finely chopped toasted almonds to the topping instead of the cheese.
What’s good about this recipe
By serving the mushrooms with broccoli, you get double benefits. When eaten individually, tomatoes and broccoli each have anti-cancer properties but, when eaten together, their effect is increased.
This easy and quick recipe has plenty of phytonutrients in it, including beta-carotene and lutein from the leafy greens, lycopene from the tomatoes, and organosulfur compounds and flavonoids from the onions.
Because portobello isn’t a plant – it’s a fungus – it doesn’t officially contain phytonutrients. But it stills packs a powerful punch of health benefits because it is a very good source of thiamine, vitamin B6, and a good source of folate. You’ll also benefit from the selenium, lysine, protein, zinc, copper, manganese and iron it so willingly gives up for you.
Nutrition label for the healthy stuffed portobello mushroom, with cheese
Nutrition label for fat free version of healthy stuffed portobello mushroom