So long to summer… Even though I’m not returning to school – and haven’t for a long time now – there is still a general feeling of ennui – a feeling that something is ending. I heard a psychologist explain that our internal clock still has memory of all those years of Septembers past and first days back to class. The weather will still be great for a couple months, autumn is glorious, but the world is fixing to reset back to its usual routine.

mushroom-cap4Parents collectively sing hallelujah while returning their kids to the classroom and restoring household order, but it also means the end of camping and holiday fun. For me, it is the beginning of a new year. January first is the official new year, I know, but I make my resolutions for the Tuesday after Labour Day weekend. Why not? It’s something to focus on rather than missing a fleeting summer. If we’re being truthful here – I’m not the biggest fan of summer – the pressure of cramming everything in to what feels like a few short weeks. Plus, it’s way too hot and traffic down right blows.

My resolution is two-fold: 1) take care of myself and ‘fake it’ ’til I make it 2) challenge myself and get scared.

I recently got some very disappointing and crushing news. I put myself out there by going for a pretty big opportunity in this new field of cooking. At the time I decided to pursue this endeavour it was merely a whim. As I prepared and my hopes began to swell, I allowed myself to dream and actually shoot for something pretty darned ambitious. I guess it had been a while since I really gave myself permission to want for more.

I didn’t get it and I was devastated – still am. I was angry at myself for caring in the first place. I was angry at myself for telling other people about it and ashamed to have to tell them I failed. Now I’m just angry that it was the first time in as long as I can remember that I actually lept for a goal.

There has been something missing inside me for a while and I think this showed me that when you stop dreaming you are basically just wandering through life. Maybe I will never be able to open up my music club/cafe or travel the world to learn new culinary techniques, but it doesn’t mean that giving up is the answer… or an option. I don’t know what will come next – it won’t be perfect and will probably be tough – but the stumbles are what teach us how to get up again.

Here is a little treat for all you lovers of Autumn – the utter genius of Hawksley Workman… coming home to TO in Nov!

PORTOBELLO PUTTANESCA CAPS or HARLOT MUSHROOMS

serves 2 as a main or 4 as an appetizer or side

I love stuffed mushrooms. They are great button size as an appetizer with crab or cream cheese or just about anything. Recently I started using portobellos making them into a main course, filling them umpteen different ingredients. A great variation I tried out was a Tex-Mex themed mushroom with ground sausage, olives, salsa and topped with crumbled tortilla chips, cheese and shredded lettuce… like having a guilt-free nacho meal.

I felt the need to do something with Puttanesca sauce. It’s delicious, but more than that, it goes by another name – Harlot’s sauce – or in the style of a prostitute. Legend is that because this pasta dish comes together quickly and cheaply, it was a meal the ladies of the night could make between jobs. Of course, there are other stories, like the one that says it comes from a restaurant in Italy where a group of people asked for food at a late hour saying “Facci una puttanata qualsiasi” or “make any kind of garbage.” Being the romantic that I am, I’m going with the former story.

It looks like there is a lot going on here, but it’s likely these are all things you have in your pantry. Here I under cook the quinoa then toast the topping as it broils acting as a gluten free version of breadcrumbs offering a nice contrasting crunch.

 

1/4 cup quinoa

1/2 cup water

4 large portobello mushrooms

1 can tuna in oil, drained

1/4 cup chopped cherry or grape tomatoes

1 small onion, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

2 tbsp pitted and chopped kalamata olives

2 tbsp chopped capers

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp mayonnaise or full fat plain yogurt

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 – 1 tsp crushed chili peppers

1/4 tsp sugar

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

mushroom-cap-vertCook your quinoa by bringing the water to a boil in a small pot. Add the quinoa and reduce heat simmering uncovered for 7 minutes. It will be slightly under cooked, but that’s what we are going for. Remove from pot to cool.

Preheat the broiler on your oven (or toaster oven).

Wipe clean your mushrooms with a damp cloth and break off the stems, discard or reserve for another use such as soup. Take a teaspoon and very gently scrape the gill-like insides from the cap – don’t go too deep as you’ll need the cap to hold its integrity as it cooks. Put the scraped out mushroom bits in a medium sized bowl.

In the same bowl add the remaining ingredients except the cheeses and parsley. Mash together until well combined. Taste for seasoning. Go easy on the salt to start, your capers and olives have some already. Fold in 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Divide the filling in 4 and spoon into the mushroom caps, spreading to the edges with a tiny bit of a concave-like well in the middle.

Toss the cooled quinoa, remaining cheese and fresh parsley together adding a little extra fresh pepper. Divide in 4 parts and scoop over each of the caps. Place on a cookie sheet and slide under the broiler for 8 – 10 minutes until the mushroom has softened a little and the topping is browned and crunchy.

Serve with a light salad or simple spaghetti with olive oil, crushed chilis and parmesan. Add some lemon wedges on the side.

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