It's official, boys and girls ... I signed a contract for a new cozy mystery series. I'll be writing this new series, about a woman who owns a boutique for pets, under the name Annie Knox (an homage to my parents: my mom's middle name is Ann and my dad's middle name is Knox). I love these new characters, and I can't wait to share details with you in upcoming posts. But, for now, on to the food ....
When Mr. Wendy and I were newly affianced (I love that word!), a good friend gave us a George Foreman grill. I will confess that I thought it was an odd choice of gift for a couple who had nearly 20 years of combined vegetarianism. But, you know the saying about gifts and horses. I smiled and thanked her.
And the George Foreman sat in a box in the cupboard for a few years. Yes, you read that right: years. Then, one day, I came home to find Mr. Wendy leaning against the kitchen counter, the Foreman and its various bits spread out behind him amidst a sea of plastic bags.
Fair enough. Even better, he made one for me. It wasn't anything too fancy, just nice bread and a few slices of good cheese. But, dang, the George Foreman transformed it from a mere sandwich to a panini. I was completely smitten with the melty cheese and toasty bread, all without the added fat and potential sogginess of butter or margarine.
We spent a couple of weeks putting the grill through its paces. We tried all sorts of sandwich combos, along various other vegetarian savories (vegie burgers, marinated tofu, eggplant and zucchini . . . ). We hit a couple of sour notes along the way (the barbecued seitan made a sticky, hideous mess). But, in short, our lives were changed forever.
Recently I had a craving for something rich and tomato-y and cheesy. This recipe for Portobello Parmesan was born (with the George Foreman making an important cameo appearance for flattening and pre-cooking the mushroom).
4 portobello mushroom caps, stems removed and gills scraped out
2 small vine-ripened tomatoes, sliced and the seeds removed
2/3 c. ricotta (low fat or nonfat is fine)
1/3 c. grated parmesan
1/4 c. fresh basil (minced or chiffonade)
pinch black pepper
4 slices mozzarella
Preheat a George Foreman grill or panini press. Preheat the oven to 350. Cook each mushroom cap on the grill/press for about 4 minutes (until flattened and fragrant, but not mushy). Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, parmesan, basil, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
When the mushrooms are done, place them on a rack set over a 9x13 pan (or on a broiling pan - something that will allow the liquid from the mushrooms to drain off as they cook). Top each mushroom cap with a few slices of tomato; divide the soft cheese mixture among the mushroom caps; and, finally, add a slice of mozzarella to each. Place the mushrooms in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes (until the cheese is nicely melted).
Meanwhile, make spaghetti and your favorite red sauce (you can use jarred, or a simply concoction of olive oil, a smidge of garlic, crushed tomatoes, oregano, salt, and a dash of sugar). Serve the mushrooms over pasta and sauce. For more dainty eaters, a single mushroom cap would work for one person. For us, it was two apiece.