Mediterranean Meatballs with Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

9 Nov

Garlic — packed with disease-slaying antioxidants and other magical properties that have been shown to do everything from reduce cancerous cells to help ease headaches to teach Billy how to tie his shoes to make the dullest dish on earth taste like a night in Venice, dancing under a full moon — is by far the most important component in my arsenal of vampire fighting weapons. Battling vampires, as any good Catholic / individual of Eastern European descent / viewer of the WB can tell you, is an essential, if vaguely tiresome, part of the human condition.

My husband and his people, Methodist / of German and Scandinavian descent / viewer of dull educational shows on PBS, have never been exposed to the grim and rugged reality of a full-throttled assault of the blood-sucking midnight howlers.

Stephen and his fair-skinned blond and bonny clan have merrily skipped across centuries, through fang and cape-free prairies dappled by a bright and cheery sun; fairies leaped along with them, flinging sparkling sprinkles of sugar dust in their wake.

He fails to understand, in his vast and wide-eyed innocence, why I, and my people, (who have done battle with the pallid, cackling clan of coffin thumpers since time immemorial) feel the need to load down everything we put in our mouths with mounds of the effulgent stuff: raw, roasted, sauteed, pickled; softneck, rocambole, purple stripe. We love the stink rose in all of its various forms. Stephen just thinks it stinks.

If you told me, 10 years ago, that I would marry the sort of man who didn’t buy garlic in bulk as a matter of course, never mind avoided the stuff, I would have whipped out my crucifix and doused you in a bath of holy water. I would have assumed that only a member of the dark and toothy side would dare to utter such a patently ridiculous, libelous and seditious statement.

But love is blind. In our case, it also suffers from anosmia.

Our opposing world views have led to a few serious clashes in the kitchen. One notable incident involved Stephen wrestling me to the ground in a vain attempt to prevent me from adding a fifth clove of garlic to a giant, bubbling vat of Venison Stew. (The fool! He chucked the head I had wedged protectively between my knees in our overflowing garbage can and removed the offending bag from our kitchen; but while he was gone, I merely located my back-up stash under the kale in the crisper — the last place he’d ever venture — and threw in another three cloves out of pure, unadulterated spite.)

The recipes I cranked out this Sunday were part of my over-arching aim to find common ground on the violent battle ground to which our taste buds have sent us.

Behold, the sweet/savory, herb-packed Mediterranean Meatballs and the Weird Fusion Marinated Portobello Mushrooms That Totally Work.

Mediterranean Meatballs

Makes 24 meatballs, 6-8 servings

Adapted from Daniel Holzman

Ingredients:

  • 1.2 pounds ground lamb shoulder or leg
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
  • 1/8 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins, rehydrated and chopped (to rehydrate, pour hot water over raisins, let sit for 2 minutes and drain)
  • 1/4 bunch mint, chopped fine
  • 1/4 bunch parsley, chopped fine

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Spray two baking dishes with Pam (metal sheet trays work best)
  • In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together with hands until everything is incorporated. Don’t overmix — it will toughen the meat.
  • Roll meat into balls, about the size of golf ball.
  • Place on sheet trays.
  • Pop in the oven and roast. Flip over after about 10 minutes. Allow to cook until browned on both sides, about 10 more minutes, 20 total.
  • Serve with slider buns, with or without a little pesto or pasta sauce & with or without a hard grated cheese.

Weird Fusion Marinated Portobello Mushrooms That Totally Work

Makes 4 servings

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients:

Mushrooms:

  • 2 TBSP olive oil, more to taste
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP Mirin
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 TBSP fresh mint, chopped fine
  • 4 large portobello mushrooms

Filling:

  • 8 oz frozen spinach
  • 10 oz button mushrooms
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated and divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 2.25 oz goat cheese (fresh or with rind, rind removed)

Method:

  • Whisk first eight ingredients together for marinade. Sprinkle with mint and stir. Remove stems from portobello mushrooms and set aside.
  • Arrange mushrooms, gill side up, in glass baking dish. Pour marinade over and allow mushrooms to soak it up for at least four hours. Turn occasionally to coat.
  • Chop portobello mushroom stems and button mushrooms by hand or in food processor.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Heat oil in large skillet and add onion, salt. Cook over medium heat until just slightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, cook for 30 seconds. Add spinach, cook for about 4 minutes, until excess water evaporates. Add mushrooms and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, until liquid evaporates, the mixture smells rich and woodsy and the mushrooms are golden. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Allow mushroom mixture to cool slightly.
  • Pop marinated portobello mushrooms in oven (with the marinade), gill side down. Roast for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add half of the Parmesan cheese with the breadcrumbs to the mushroom mixture and toss to incorporate. Then crumble or slice the goat cheese, and gently mix in. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Once mushrooms are roasted, remove baking dish from oven, flip over so gill side faces up and top with mushroom mixture. There will be a ton of excess, but just throw it all in.
  • Top with remaining Parmesan, pop in the oven and bake until cheese is melted and golden, about 17 minutes.

Nutritional breakdown for Mediterranean Meatballs: These guys are a lot more low-cal than I would have expected: just 92 calories per ball and 5.7 grams of fat. The fresh herbs are nutritional powerhouses — loaded with niacin, phosphorus, zinc, Vitamin C and A. The meat (grass fed, organic, free-range) is high in Omega 3’s, Vitamin E, iron, protein and calcium.

Nutritional breakdown for Weird Fusion Marinated Portobello Mushrooms That Totally Work: I was surprised by how many calories these babies packed — about 350 a shroom and 17 grams of fat. That said, stuffed mushrooms may be the perfect whole food: they are oozing with calcium, protein, iron, potassium, selenium, folium, fiber and all of the letter Vitamins.

Cost breakdown for Mediterranean Meatballs: About $15.00, or $2.14 a serving.

Cost breakdown for Weird Fusion Marinated Portobello Mushrooms That Totally Work: About $18.00, or $4.50 a serving.

The verdict: The meatballs were a revelation; we are both now completely on the fresh herb bandwagon. Despite their clear nutritional superiority, I always resisted buying the fresh stuff because I was convinced that it was a semi-waste of $1-$2 a pop. No more. The herbs added zings of slap your grandma fresh flavor while simultaneously complimenting the savory meats and nuts and the sweetness of the raisins. A joy to eat. The mushrooms? Let’s just say I won’t be making them again for my garlic-fearing Scandinavian skipper anytime soon. “I didn’t think I’d like these things! There’s too much stuff, they’re messy to eat and there are too many crazy flavors.” I completely (shocker) disagree. I think the goat cheese and Parm add a delectable funk to the garden symphony. Whatever — more for me.

Make them again: Yes and yes. But no more shrooms for Stephen.

In the future: I may try to make my own slider buns — the alternative is either overpriced or subpar. Also — I think it would be fun to top the meatballs with sauteed veggies. I added roasted red pepper sauce and Stephen insisted on cheese, but simply grilled eggplant, mushrooms or onions would be delightful. Oh, and I’ll add more garlic to the shrooms since I don’t have to share.

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