Mushroom Croustades or Stuffed Mushrooms, Your Pick (Vegan or Vegetarian)

The choice between making these as croustades or as stuffed mushroom caps depends on whether you want them to be vegan (croustade shells are not vegan) and/or whether you happen to have any croustade shells handy. In my case, I did just so happen to have some handy as the result of discovering these puppies at Ikea (weird, eh?) and stockpiling about 5 dozen of them like the freakshow that I am. Also I did not have enough mushrooms to do caps. Hence, the croustades you see pictured at right.

Note that you also have a further choice in whether or not to use vegan cream cheese or make a non-vegan goat cheese version. Obviously the goat cheese version is much richer and tangier, but they are both super tasty and perfect as a party appetizer.

Lastly, I garnished these with sauteed porcini mushrooms, but you can garnish them with any kind of mushroom, or chives, or parsley, or whatever floats your boat. If you have access to porcini, I’d say spring for them – they are a bit pricey but you only need about 1/10th of a pound (2 or 3 small ones). Note: Take care when selecting porcini – avoid any with soggy, yellow or greenish parts, and inspect them for holes or little trails – unfortunately, they can be wormy.

Stuffed Mushrooms or Mushroom Croustades

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb baby bella mushrooms OR 1 lb if you’re making stuffed mushrooms (Note that each version requires different mushroom preparation – see below)
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 2 – 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • Cheese – either:
    • 8 oz vegan cream cheese, OR
    • 4 oz goat cheese and 4 oz regular cream cheese
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 – 2 tbsp minced chives, for garnish (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set out the cheese to soften. Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth or mushroom brush.

If you’re making the croustades, slice the mushrooms in about 1/4 inch thick slices, reserving 2 orf 3 big ones for garnish (or you could use the stems), if desired. If you’re making stuffed mushroom caps, break the stems from the caps and chop the stems coarsely, taking care to slice off and discard any tough ends. Set the caps aside.

Heat a large skillet on medium. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallot and garlic and saute for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Add the mushroom slices and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. After a couple minutes, cover, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have juiced (3 – 5 minutes or so). When they’ve juiced, remove cover and continue to cook, stirring regularly until the juice is reabsorbed (1 – 2 minutes).

Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse the mushrooms a  couple times until they’re a quasi-duxelles. (Yeah, okay, I just really wanted to use that word. Color me ostentatious.) Add the cheese and cayenne and pulse a few more times until well blended. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon mixture into croustade shells or mushroom caps (it will probably fill around 2 dozen or so; if you have filling left over, serve it as a dip or use it as a spread). Place them on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven, 5 to 8 minutes for the croustades. For the caps, oil the baking sheets before adding the caps. Bake them for about 12 – 15 minutes or so (basically until the caps are tender), but keep an eye on the filling so it doesn’t burn.

While that’s baking, if you want to make a mushroom garnish, coarsely chop the remaining mushrooms or mushroom bits and saute quickly in olive oil with a bit of garlic, following the directions above. Salt to taste and spoon onto the tops of the baked croustades, and/or sprinkle with chives.

Serve immediately.

Little Green Hot Peppers from Padrón (Vegan)

As the proverb goes, “Ones are spicy, anothers don’t.” Indeed.

Ones are spicy, anothers don't.

The little green hot peppers in question are known as “Pimientos de Padrón” and originally hail from the state of Galicia in Northern Spain. I first learned about said peppers while living in Santiago de Compostela several years ago. I can’t speak for the rest of Spain, but I do know you can’t spend much time in Santiago before you notice that every 10th tourist is sporting a t-shirt proclaiming the celebrity of the tasty peppers in a delightfully awkward translation from the Castilian Spanish, “LITTLE GREEN HOT PEPPERS FROM PADRÓN, ONES ARE SPICY, ANOTHERS DON’T” (pictured at right).

In Castilian Spanish, the proverb actually goes “Algunos te pican, otros no,” for which the direct translation is “Ones sting you, others do not.” Which clearly doesn’t translate well to English either. Essentially, this particular saying just highlights the disparity between how Spanish and English treat indefinite pronouns, not to mention how we express spiciness – as a state versus as an action. Personally, I like to think of spiciness as an action, and I think the mistranslation captures the truth of the matter more concisely and appropriately in its inobeisance of grammar constructs. (No, inobeisance isn’t a word. I made it up because it meant what I meant. My kitchen is free from the tyranny of language rules.)

Anyway. These little green hot peppers are so ubiquitous in Galicia that it’s hard to even have one drink at a bar without someone serving you a few as a free tapa. I do not exaggerate. They’re so everywhere all the time that people are giving them away for free. Which is how I quickly came to learn to prepare them myself. And the truth is, they are super easy to make as a quick appetizer or snack at home. The hardest part (in San Diego, anyway) is getting your hands on some of them. They sometimes have them at Whole Foods or other grocery stores. We usually get them from  Suzie’s Farm at our nearby Farmer’s Market. You could also join their CSA and presumably have access to peppers of Padrón whenever they’re in season, as well as plenty of other awesome vegetables.

Pimientos de Padrón

  • 1/2 lb peppers of Padrón
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Lots of salt

I was taught this method of preparing peppers of Padrón by a lifelong resident of Galicia. He basically said to me, “Heat a lot of oil in a pan. When it is hot, throw in the peppers. The oil will splatter. Ignore it. Well, don’t burn yourself on it, just don’t be stupid. Afterwards, stir in an amount of salt which is far more than you think you should, and after you’ve done that, add even more. You will probably never put enough salt in, because you will think nothing should have that much salt. But you will be wrong.”

It’s true. Every time I’ve made these, I’ve thought I put an insane amount of salt in, and afterwards I’ve thought, “Gosh, that really could have used more salt.” Though they’re still delicious anyway.

So, fry them in salt, stirring frequently, until the peppers are blistered and browned. Serve hot, but not too hot (don’t want to bite into boiling oil, you know).

And by the way, beware. Some of them are spicy and others aren’t.

Not Remotely Vegan Mushroom Leek Omelet (Vegetarian)

Let’s face it. There are times in life when you have no choice but to eat a delicious omelet. Unless you’re strictly vegan, in which case there may be times when you have no desire to eat a delicious omelet but would certainly still enjoy a nice tofu scramble. If that’s the case, I promise you I will post a vegan alternative to the aforementioned omelet one of these days. Promise. Pro. Mise.

In the meantime, however, all I have is this totally non-vegan omelet, with nothing to say for myself except that I love this omelet.

Actually, I do have one more thing to say for myself, which is that we went on a lovely trip to the Russian River for the 4th of July holiday this past weekend, and stayed with our friends Ben and Harley and Harley’s awesome parents at their river house. And the house was full of animal products all weekend. And everyone had brought more eggs than anyone knew what to do with. And we had a house full of hungry friends each morning. And we had me, always wanting to cook something that will make everybody happy. And me, always one to throw rules to the wind for festive reasons. And me, additionally harboring twice as many mushrooms as I knew what to do with. And so I invented this omelet. I was forced to really, I had no choice. I couldn’t let all those eggs and mushrooms and potential omelets go to waste, could I?

But why am I being an omelet apologist? You don’t have time for that. You have a fantastic omelet to devour, and now I’m just standing in your way. So onward. The omelet. Let the fruits of our Independence Day revelry live on.

Mushroom Leek Omelet

The filling

  • 1 leek, thoroughly cleaned, sliced
  • 8 oz baby bella (cremini) or chanterelle mushrooms, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (Note: If you’re not opposed, replacing the oil with butter makes it extra delicious. I know, I’m miserable at being vegan.)
  • 1 c. fresh corn from the cob (canned or frozen also works)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 c. shredded gruyére (optional)
The omelet
  • 4 cage-free organic eggs
  • A bit of water or (if you must) milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

For the filling. Heat a medium sized pan on medium to medium high. When hot, add oil. Once the oil is hot, add the leeks, stirring to cover thoroughly with oil. (If you’re using butter, let the butter melt completely before adding leek.) Saute a while, stirring often, until leek begins to soften, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and stir to coat with oil. Continue to cook for another minute, stirring regularly. Cover, and leave the mixture a while for the mushrooms to juice, about 2 or 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms have juiced, remove cover. Add corn and cook another 2 or 3 minutes, being mindful that the leeks and mushrooms don’t overcook. Add salt to taste. Remove from heat to a bowl.

For the omelet. Crack the eggs into a medium sized mixing bowl, being careful to remove any bits of shell that may get involved. Add a bit of water (or milk, if that’s what you’re using); approximately 1/8 to 1/4 cup. Whisk briskly until mixture is fairly uniform, being careful not to over whisk. (Whisking eggs too long introduces bubbles and can make them intolerably fluffy. Just my humble opinion.)

Heat a large skillet on medium high, add oil. When oil is hot, pour in one half of the egg mixture slowly (my brilliant friend Ben ladles it in with a 1/4 c. measuring cup, letting the egg solidify as he adds the mixture). This part of the omelet takes omelet talent. Let the egg cook through on bottom, occasionally tipping the pan to let any liquid reach the edge of the pan.

When the egg mixture seems mostly cooked through, spoon about half of the mushroom filling in the middle of the omelet. (Note: Eyeball it to make sure the amount of filling makes sense. Too much filling is a common source of fallen omelets.)

Allow the omelet to cook just a bit longer, and if you’re using the cheese, now would be the time to sprinkle it in. Flip one side of the omelet over to cover the other. If you are omelet-inept, using a combination of a spatula and spoon may be advisable. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that omelets take practice and finesse. But if your omelet falls, don’t despair. It tastes the same, no matter what shape it’s in.

When you have folded over the omelet, cook on each side until slightly browned.

Voila. So there’s my favorite omelet.