For a very long time, until I was in my twenties, I used to love the taste that mushrooms gave to a sauce but hated chewing them. So I pushed them apart in my plate and happily ate the pasta with the flavorful sauce.
Not many varieties abounded then, mostly dried pine mushrooms, which were not the ones to try if you wanted to fall in love with mushrooms. As it happened a lot in the following years, I developed my taste buds and my list of things to try grew exponentially with my birthdays.
The amount of dried and fresh mushrooms I find now is large and I learned to use a few and to pair them well with other ingredients. One of my favorite pasta dishes is tagliolini (thin spaghetti) with funghi porcini, olive oil, and parsley, an Italian dish that, when well prepared, is something to write home about.
But that´s not what I´m making today. I wanted to cook something for my hosts during my last trip. I had bought a most extraordinary cookbook and was having a hard time deciding. This is a vegetarian book, and though I most certainly am not one, it´s fairly accurate to say that I may go through bouts of vegetarianism if I let my desire to cook every single recipe in that book take hold of me.
The portobellos I found were huge, each a meal in itself. Dark and earthy, here they are filled with sautéed vegetables and sun dried tomatoes, lots of them, and then they are baked with taleggio cheese on top that melts gloriously and imparts a slight piquant, creamy cover to the final dish.
It´s no surprise I loved them so much, since this is a modernized version of my growing-up flavor memories of tomatoes and cheese.
But don´t think you´re in for your average tomato, cheese and mushroom mix. This is nothing like that.
STUFFED PORTOBELLO WITH MELTING TALEGGIO
from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi
4 large portobellos, stalks removed
6 Tbs olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 small onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs chopped tarragon leaves
4 Tbs coarsely shredded basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the mushrooms, stalk side up, on the baking sheet and drizzle over a little oil and some salt and pepper. Put into the oven and roast for about 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to soften.
Meanwhile, heat up 2 tablespoons of the oil in a sauté pan, add the onion and celery and cook on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not brown; stir every few minutes during cooking. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool down.
Once cool, add the parmesan, tarragon and half the basil to the mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Careful because the Taleggio is salty.
Pile up the filling on the whole mushrooms and top with the taleggio slices. (Return to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the mushrooms are tender.
Transfer to serving plates, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the basil leaves.