After months and months of thesis writing and subsisting on take-out, I have emerged as a newly minted PhD! And thankfully that also means getting back into the kitchen to come up with some new creations to revitalize my spirit. I threw together this recipe for an impromptu dinner party, and I actually enjoy the pressure to come up with a dish on the spot, because it requires creative use of ingredients on hand. The ‘clear the pantry’ strategy is one of my favorite ways to cook because it forces me to try out some new combinations. In this case, I had some leftover pecans and parsley that I needed to use, and figured they would spruce up a classic pesto and pair well with the earthiness of mushrooms and goat cheese. When it comes to pesto, you don’t actually have to use all basil to get the full basil flavor, but can throw in other greens to bulk up a pesto. I have used raw carrot tops before, and also hear that kale works well. This is considered one of my ‘quick and easy’ recipes, but with me, it always has to be a little bit complicated. Feel free to use store-bought pesto, then this recipe will actually be quick and easy!
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- 1 cup fresh basil (can include stems)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Juice of 1/2 small lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- 18 medium crimini mushrooms
- olive oil (several tablespoons)
- salt and pepper
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 3 oz goat cheese
- 6 large basil leaves, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)
Start with the pesto, which I made a little bit ahead of time. In a food processor, add the garlic cloves and pecans and pulse a few times. Add the parsley, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper and blend until relatively smooth. Add the parmesan cheese and half of the lemon juice, and blend briefly until well mixed. Taste to adjust seasoning and add the rest of the lemon juice if desired, and blend briefly. I like my pesto to have some lemony brightness but you don’t have to add as much lemon as I do.
To cook the mushrooms, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Gently clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel. Pull the stems out of the mushrooms and set aside. In a bowl, toss the mushroom caps with a few tablespoons of olive oil and about a half teaspoon of salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Mix with your hands to spread the olive oil evenly over the mushrooms. Place mushroom caps onto a baking sheet or into baking dishes, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
While the mushrooms are in the oven, take the stems and chop finely. Heat a frying pan over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil, and once hot, add the minced shallot and a pinch of salt. Sautee a few minutes until onions are translucent. Add the chopped mushroom stems and the clove of minced garlic, and let the mushrooms cook down. Once the mushrooms begin to brown, add another pinch of salt and some pepper, and then set aside.
Once the mushroom caps are cooked, let them cool a few minutes, then pour out any excess liquid. You can reserve this liquid to cook with later or make a sauce with it, because it is essentially a reduced mushroom stock and is absolutely delicious. Once the mushrooms have cooled, spoon in the cooked mushroom stems, and add a dollop of pesto and about a teaspoon of goat cheese. Top each mushroom with a basil ribbon as a garnish.