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March 19, 2008
Meat-Free? You’re Not Crazy, You Just Need Portobello Mushrooms
There are among us, a very curious kind of person who refuses, for a
variety of reasons, to eat meat.
may pity them at your leisure, and they certainly are worthy of it. But,
the question must be asked – are they, at some level, on to something?
Is it possible to eat a meal with no meat in it?
answer comes with the kind of hushed tones that enhance dramatic effect
. . . yes.
Although there is a tendency to think of tofu as a suitable substitute
for meat, that is based solely on its ability to deliver protein. When
it comes to taste, tofu is well-suited to taking on the flavors
surrounding it, but it is not by itself a main character.
Instead, look to the simple, humble mushroom.
Portobello mushroom is one of the meatiest of mushrooms, and when
properly cooked has a texture and color that is not terribly unlike
beef. If you are looking for a true heir to the qualities of meat, then
this is the one, and it is especially good when mixed with other things
in the pasta bowl.
will want to start by boiling water for the noodles. This is how quickly
this recipe can come together. Knowing ahead of time the law of kitchen
proportionality, you will want to select bow-tie pasta, which is short
enough to go with chunked sauce, but also not a shape that will compete
with the mushrooms.
would be recommended that you go with baby Portobellos. Unlike their
older, bigger siblings, these resemble regular workaday button
them into quarters and sauté them in hot olive oil with a few cloves of
minced garlic (the more garlic you use, the more repellent you are to
neighborhood vampires, a useful tip under certain circumstances). When
they begin to soften, throw in half a diced red pepper and also a
handful of raw asparagus. Once they begin to soften, pour in a
quarter-cup of red cooking wine and add some thyme and parsley. Let it
simmer and cook down. The effect isn’t just to promote powerfully good
flavor but also proper aesthetics – the red flecks will break up the
appearance of drab green and brown.
now the pasta noodles have cooked, and it is time to drain them. Keep,
if possible, a small amount of the water in case the sauce surrounding
the mushrooms isn’t enough to wet the noodles.
the sauce has cooked down, toss everything together in a bowl. Perhaps
you think you are all done, but you are not. Now, over the entire thing
you should drizzle the juice from one freshly squeezed lemon. Stir and
add salt and pepper to taste.
result may not convince you to give up meat forever (let’s hope that it
doesn’t), but it does tell you that those who decline to eat meat aren’t
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