(image via Recipes.com)

As part of my resolution to try one new Mediterranean recipe each week, I’m also focusing on changing my “center of the plate.” The plant-based Mediterranean Diet is an easy (and delicious) way to make vegetables beans and greens the main event, rather than merely a sideshow. Managing this on a day-to-day basis has not been difficult; actually, it’s been easy and less expensive.  On the other hand, I’d never organized a “fancier” dinner party without meat or fish as the centerpiece. With vegetarian (no fish) friends Kathy McManus, the head of nutrition at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and her husband Sandy scheduled to come for dinner, I dove into a number of cookbooks, looking for a soup and a main dish that would be easy to prepare and serve on a work night, but would be special enough for a dinner party. The menu? Red lentil soup from Melissa Clark’s wonderful new cookbook, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, and a Mushroom Stew from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Deborah Madison’s classic and award-winning cookbook, served with Israeli couscous and greens. Starting with the main course, this week’s recipe is Deborah’s yummy mushroom stew.  The jacket cover of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone starts off by saying, “What Julia Child is to French cooking and Marcella Hazan is to Italian cooking, Deborah Madison is to contemporary vegetarian cooking.  At the Greens restaurant in San Francisco, where she was the founding chef, and in her two acclaimed vegetarian cookbooks, Madison elevated vegetarian cooking to new heights of sophistication, introducing many people to the joy of cooking without meat, whether occasionally or for a life-time.” Deborah and her husband Patrick are long-time friends of Oldways and when she inscribed my book, Deborah wrote: “I’m so happy for our continuing friendship and of course vegetables and olive oil play an important part!” The title of her books says it all….vegetarian cooking can be for everyone, every day, once a week or every once in a while. Winter Portobello Mushroom Stew Ingredients
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • Salt and freshly milled pepper
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • ½ pound Portobello mushrooms, sliced ⅜ inch thick, gills removed
  • 1 pound large white mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable or mushroom stock
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, optional
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or tarragon
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and remove to a bowl.
  2. Return the pan to medium heat and add half the remaining oil. When it’s hot, add the Portobello mushrooms and sauté until nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Add them to the onion and repeat with the remaining oil and white mushrooms. Return everything to the pan and add the garlic, tomato paste, stock and vinegar. Simmer gently for 12 to 15 minutes, and then swirl in the butter (if you choose to use the butter). Add the parsley, taste for salt and season with pepper.
Deborah suggests serving this with soft polenta, mashed potatoes, fresh rosemary pasta, or rice pilaf. Since I am head over heels with Israeli couscous, I served the couscous with greens. Click here for the latest information on the nutritional benefits of mushrooms.  You’ll find they are a nutrition powerhouse.

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