Do you ever cook up a recipe in your head before you actually cook it in the kitchen? If the answer is yes, then join my club. That’s what I usually do when I want to put my imagination to test and challenge my creativity in the kitchen. So my head serves as my test kitchen from time to time. I visualize the final product of my imagination, then “taste” it in my head too. Ha ha. I wonder if my family thinks I am crazy when they see me wrinkle my nose at the looks of the food I just “cooked” but did not turn the way I expected, or when they hear me scream yummy! or yes! and see me rush to the kitchen for what to them may seem like no obvious reason. Yesterday using the exact same method of recipe testing, I made stuffed mushrooms for my guests who were coming over for dinner.
As you already know, I love eggplant! I also love the combination of eggplants, walnuts, fresh herbs and garlic – the ingredients popular in Azerbaijani cuisine. I decided to use these ingredients minus garlic to stuff my mushrooms. My test kitchen gave me a go ahead signal and soon my mushrooms were sitting pretty on a serving platter waiting for the guests to arrive. Luckily, my test kitchen did not embarrass me – the mushrooms were a hit and were gone in no time.
Stuffed mushrooms are really easy to make. Make sure you chop the walnuts coarsely so the filling has a nice crunch to it. Next time I am going to add some garlic to the stuffing to see if and how it adds to the overall taste. I may also add some crumbled feta cheese to the filling. What is your favorite way to stuff mushrooms? I am curious to find out. Enjoy!
Mushrooms Stuffed with Eggplants, Walnuts and Fresh Herbs
Makes 20 stuffed mushrooms
20 large white mushrooms (about 24 oz / 700 g)
For the stuffing:
1 medium eggplant
4 tablespoons olive oil
mushroom stems (see the recipe)
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mixed chopped fresh parsley, cilantro and dill (or use any one or a combination of any two)
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
shredded Gouda cheese (substitute with mozzarella)
1. Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth or paper towel. Remove the stems, chop them finely and reserve. Put mushroom cups aside.
2. Peel and cut the eggplant into small cubes (about 1/2 inch / 1.3 cm). Arrange the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Put colander in a sink. Place a weight, such as a plate or lid, on top. Leave for about 15 minutes, to allow the bitter dark juices of the eggplant to drain. (An alternative way to extract the bitterness would be to place the eggplant in a bowl with cold water mixed with 1 tablespoon salt, putting a weight on top and leaving for 15 minutes). Rinse and gently squeeze the eggplant cubes to remove as much moisture as possible.
3. In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant cubes and fry, turning frequently for about 7 minutes, or until light brown on all sides. Add the chopped mushroom stems and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 3 minutes, or until the stems are just tender. Remove from heat.
4. Preheat the oven to 350?F (180?C).
5. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cooked eggplant-stem mixture, chopped walnuts and fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir with a spoon to mix.
6. Using a teaspoon, fill each mushroom cup with a generous amount of stuffing. Sprinkle the tops with shredded cheese. Transfer the mushrooms to a baking sheet. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the mushroom cups feel tender and and the cheese is melted.
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