Thursday, March 23, 2006

Portabello Mushrooms Stuffed with Warm Lentil & Broccoli Salad

I got a recipe similar to this one years ago, and over the years, have played with it. No matter what I've done, it has remained a family favorite ever since. Its deceptively simple, but is delicious and makes a nice enough presentation to serve to company.

Quick hint about timing: Put the water on to boil before you do anything else, then put the mushrooms in the oven, then get the broccoli going, then cook the onions, then the get the lentils going, and lastly, make the dressing.

For the Mushrooms
4 large Portabello mushrooms, brushed clean
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place the mushrooms on the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or your favorite seasoned salt. I particularly like Greek Seasoning for this, or Tony Chachere's. Bake uncovered until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside

For the Salad
16 oz of broccoli florets
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups of brown lentils
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 C nuts or sunflower seeds

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil, add broccoli and cook until tender, about 6 or 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli from the boiling water and put into a large salad bowl. When all the broccoli is removed, add the lentils, lower heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook the lentils until al dente - tender, but still holding their shape and definitely not mushy - about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils into the salad bowl. In a frypan, saute the onion and garlic in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until translucent, but not more. Add to the salad bowl. Using the same frypan, add another drizzle of olive oil, and saute the nuts or seeds until they are golden brown and toasty tasting. Be careful that you don't burn them. Add all the nuts to the salad except a couple of teaspoons to use as garnish.

For the Dressing
1/4 C olive oil
3 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme, or a heaping 1/2 tsp dry thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together and pour over the salad.

Toss the salad well - everything will still be warm. Taste for salt, pepper and vinegar, and adjust to your taste.

Plate it with the mushroom on the bottom, a large mound of the lentil mixture on top, and then garnish with a sprinkle of the reserved toasted nuts or seeds.

Serves four generously

Notes: This is just as delicious without the mushrooms, but they add a warm earthiness that elevates this dish to company fare. I use my toaster oven to bake the mushrooms - its a lot less bother. You could probably get a similar flavor by sauteing a half pound of mushrooms with the onions and mixing them into the salad, but it sure won't be as pretty! This is yummy cold, or even the next day, though sometimes it needs a splash more of vinegar and salt to brighten the flavor. I've also mixed in about 1/4 C of chopped parsley which was tasty, and also have tried the same amount of chopped cilantro. When I made it with the cilantro, the next day I stirred in a chopped tomato and it was really, really delicious. When it is not Lent, try it with some goat cheese or feta crumbled on top -- my mouth is watering right now! I've made the dressing with balsamic, lemon just and also with plain old garden variety red wine vinegar, and they are all delicious, though I actually like the red wine vinegar in this best.

Add a salad and a glass of wine, and its a complete meal. The perfect dessert is an orange. It really is!

From lentils in a bag to dinner plate - about 40 minutes.

Five stars!

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