By Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
It’s always a challenge to come up with a quick and easy recipe to bring to a potluck party and after I was invited to a party last week, I really had to think about my options.
I love watching the TV show, Top Chef. I marvel at the contestants’ hot creativity. Each week during the “quick fire challenge” the players have to brainstorm a recipe concept and then somehow deliver a finished product in minutes — all the while keeping in mind details like, taste, plating design, specific ingredients, technique, originality and — and — while using tools like sharp knives and burning fire. Now that’s stress.
In my case, I had a few things to consider. The first involved my personal trainer’s specific dietary requirements. She has severe allergies to preservatives and that includes, but is not limited to, canned goods, commercially-processed foods and a few wild card ingredients like iceberg lettuce and grapes. She also gave me a bit of a lecture the night before the party on my own nutrition and strongly suggested I not eat anymore cheese or more than one piece of bread in a day. On top of all of that, the hostess of the party was completely off sugar.
I wanted to bring something everyone at the party could eat and would enjoy. I also wanted the dish to be healthy in the midst of all of the seasonal indulgences. And of course, the recipe had to be portable.
Let’s recap — the recipe for the potluck must be:
- without preservatives;
- without sugar;
- without gobs of fat;
- easy to make;
- easy to eat with one hand; and
- easy to move from point A to point B.
That’s a tall order. My first idea was to bring one of those shrimp platters because it’s basically lean protein. But, that’s too easy and has been done to death. It also occurred to me that someone at the party might have a shellfish allergy. So no go on the shrimp-o.
Then I thought about mushroom caps but I had no idea what to stuff them with (bacon? crab? artichokes?) and then the next morning as I was waking up, the radio station said something about “spinach.” That was my answer. I love it when that happens. I quickly leafed through several cookbooks and found three recipes that were close to what I wanted, but not quite. I had to come up with my own recipe and here it is:
Homespunspa’s Spinach-Stuffed Mushroom Caps
- 20 – 25 fresh whole mushrooms, preferably organic.
- 1 bunch fresh spinach, rinsed with stems removed.
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced.
- 1 TB extra virgin olive oil.
- 1/3 cup no fat cottage cheese, drained.
- sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
For this recipe, you can make everything ahead and leave the baking for the party.
- Cut off the stems of the spinach leaves and rinse under cold water, checking for bits of soil that may be stuck to the leaves.
- Measure out a 1/3 cup of no fat cottage cheese and let it drain through a sieve.
- Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a large skillet. Add minced garlic and cook on medium high heat.
- Quickly add the spinach and cook for 5 minutes or more until all of the spinach is uniformly cooked. Stir and make sure all of the spinach touches the garlic oil. The spinach will turn into a different consistency and will reduce in volume. Salt to taste and to brighten the green colour. Remove the cooked spinach from the heat into a separate medium-sized bowl.
- Meanwhile, clean the mushrooms and remove the stems by twisting and pulling or with a knife. Finely dice the stems and set aside the caps.
- Using the residual garlic oil from the spinach, pan fry the diced mushroom stems separately, about 1-2 minutes, to release some flavour. Now is a good time to add some freshly cracked black pepper because mushrooms and pepper really get along well with each other.
- In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, mushroom stems and cottage cheese. Spoon the mixture into each mushroom cap.
- (Note: If you’re planning to serve these right away, you can skip this step and go to step #8). Put the finished mushrooms in a re-sealable container. If your container is really big like mine is, I suggest putting something in between your stuffed mushroom caps and the lid so they don’t bounce around during transport. As a last minute burst of genius, if I do say so myself, I placed a small ceramic cooking dish over my stuffed mushrooms and not only did my mushrooms arrive in tact, I had a convenient cooking vessel at the party.
- Once you’re at the party, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the mushrooms on the baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes and voila! Serve while hot.
Please pack your knives and go?
I bet you’re curious to know what happened. How did the mushrooms turn out? “Did I pack my knives and go?” “Was I chopped?” “Did my cuisine reign supreme?” The jury is mixed on the results of my own Top Chef challenge. On the one hand, everyone who tasted them, loved them! They raved and raved. And there were no leftovers to take home. On the other hand, mushrooms, are a no-no on my trainer’s list, so she couldn’t eat any after all. It didn’t matter if they were organic and fresh and not canned. It didn’t matter how much love and thought I put into them. She just plain can’t eat mushrooms. Another one of those wild card ingredients. I was so bummed to hear that. I guess it’s back to the drawing board for me.
You be the judge
If you decide to try this recipe, let me know how it worked out for you. I would love to hear your comments and your feedback.