Roasted New Potatoes, Mediterranean Style

I spotted an assortment of new potatoes in the store: red, white and…blue? Well, the third variety (and of course, they weren’t named) had a dark skin and though I’ve read about purple potato varieties in gardening magazines and catalogs I hadn’t actually eaten any. The assortment was lovely. In the future, however, I think I will choose a less dark way of preparing any dark/blue/purple type of potato because it sort of blended with the rest of the ingredients. On the other hand…once they are sliced in half the blue/purple potatoes have a strikingly lovely color that went all the way through. I want to look for more of these potatoes (or maybe grow my own). (Imagine what potato salad would look like!)


Lovely spring color! Yummy, too!

This recipe a yummy way of cooking potatoes. If you don’t have new potatoes (though there should be plenty of small potatoes in stores and markets at this time of year) you can also do this with larger red or white (or purple) potatoes: just cut them into halves or quarters.

Cooking time on this is a bit variable, not just depending on your stove, but also depending on the size of the potatoes. I’ve seen some “new” potatoes that were pretty big for small potatoes, but on the other hand, in this assortment pictured here the potatoes were the smallest new potatoes I’ve seen. I bake these for an hour at 350. You can probably go less, depending on the size of the potatoes or potato pieces. They’re done when you can easily stick a fork in them.

You can use canned mushrooms in this, but fresh is sooooo much better. Canned mushrooms are for when you forget to buy fresh and otherwise have all the ingredients on hand. If using canned mushrooms, don’t saute them, just stir them in with the olives.

This smells amazing: olive oil, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary. Really, the potatoes are just an excuse to blend all these wonderful things together. Prep doesn’t take much time. This recipe is easy and can be made easily with no fuss or hassle.

1 lb white button mushrooms
1 med onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic (depending on size of cloves & how much you like garlic), minced or run through garlic press
Olive oil
1 1/2 lbs new potatoes
2 Tbls rosemary
3-4 oz sliced black olives, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven 350.

Wash and drain potatoes. Clean mushrooms and remove stems. Coarsely slice mushrooms. Saute mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil until they start to turn color and make their own juice. Add chopped onion and garlic. Let simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, while you mix up the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, drizzle 4 Tbls olive oil over new potatoes. Sprinkle in 2 Tbls dried rosemary. Toss to coat. Add the rinsed and well drained black olives. Stir. By now the mushrooms and onions have cooked down a bit and have created a bit of yummy smelling broth. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl with the potatoes and stir well.


Red, white, and purple potatoes, before they go into the oven.

Then transfer the potatoes to a shallow baking dish and bake uncovered at 350, uncovered, for 1 hour…or less depending on your oven and the size of the potatoes. They’re done when they’re tender.


Hot out of the oven! Some potatoes were so small I probably could’ve cooked it for less time.

These make yummy left-overs…except that I’ve rarely had any left! It can work as a make-ahead dish which is then reheated in the microwave.

Portobello mushroom soup with caramelized onions

Soup simmering in the CrockPot.

Soup simmering in the CrockPot.

This smells amazing while it’s cooking. First there’s mostly the aroma of the onions caramelizing in the oven. Then after they’re added to the soup, the aroma of simmering portobello mushrooms really comes to the fore.

You can begin the onions either before or after you start the other ingredients in the CrockPot. It doesn’t take long to preheat the oven and prep the onions so it doesn’t make any difference in the amount of time they cook with the other ingredients. Though this recipe is made in the CrockPot it’s not one you can start and walk away from for several hours. The onions need a couple of hours in the oven, and need to be stirred before being added in with the rest of the ingredients. This is a good recipe for being stuck inside on a cold day. The kitchen is toasty warm and the aroma is homey and enticing.

Note: my CrockPot is 6qts. You may need to adjust amount of liquid or ingredients if your slow cooker is smaller.

Mushroom soup with carmelized onions

Mushroom soup with caramelized onions

5 portobello mushrooms
3 medium yellow onions
1/2 cup split red lentils
1/2 cup pearlized barley
2 stalks celery
32 oz vegetarian broth
4 cups water

I use split red lentils because I usually have them on hand and they cook quickly, disintegrate and thicken the soup. They don’t keep their bright red-orange color, but it’s that irresistible color that makes me continue to buy them. They brighten up my pantry.  🙂 The broth I use is Central Market Organics Vegetable Broth. Most vegetable broths aren’t too strongly flavored, so I could probably use it for all the liquid, but with portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions, I really want those flavors to dominate so I dilute the broth with water. (I add celery, which is a strong flavor, simply because I so strongly associate it with hearty soups and stews.)

Wash mushrooms and coarsely chop. I shoot for making pieces that look about an inch, maybe slightly less. Slice and chop the celery, but not too finely. If the leaves look good, use them too.

Put the mushrooms, celery, lentils and barley into a slow cooker. Add the broth and water. Stir well. Set the slow cooker for 4 hours. (It won’t hurt to cook a bit longer.)

Preheat the oven 350. Prep the onions by peeling and slicing them. This recipe works best if they are sliced pretty thin. I would guess I slice them into 1/4 inch slices or less. Place onions in 9″ x 12″ baking pan. (I line it with foil because despite all the margarine and periodic stirring, it does tend to stick in places. ) Dot liberally with margarine. (I use Smart Balance Original.) I scoop the margarine out with a spoon and I’d guess I use about 10-12 spoonfuls, divided up and dabbed on the onions.

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Bake 350 for 2 hours, stirring periodically. (I set the timer to stir every half hour.) When the onions are done, add them to the contents of the CrockPot, stirring well. Let the soup finish cooking. (My CrockPot rolls over to warm when it’s done.)

You can add herbs to the soup when you start it, if you want to change the flavor, but it tastes good with no seasonings. I don’t even add salt and pepper.

Before serving, stir the soup very well. The lentils (what’s left of them) and barley tend to sink.

All gone!

All gone!

Cookout: Portobello Burgers and Grilled Corn

This is what’s on the grill for our basic casual summer cookout: Portobello burgers and corn-on-the-cob. There are some excellent veggie burgers out there and I often have some on the grill too, but Portobello mushrooms are irresistible, so no matter what else you throw on the grill, make room from some of these!

Portobello burgers for two (increase amounts according to the number of people).

2 large Portobello mushroom caps, stem removed. I prefer marinating the mushrooms in white wine, having experimented with both white and red. Vinho Verde is a crisp, citrusy, effervescent wine from Portugal. Casal Garcia is my favorite winery for this, but there are others which are good. It makes a good marinade for the mushrooms, when you add a little olive oil to it. I use 1/2 cup wine and a drizzling of olive oil (sorry, I never measure this) for 2 big ‘shrooms. A baggie is good for marinating: I can swish it all together and around to make sure the liquid gets into the gills and coats the cap. You can get away with a relatively modest amount of marinade if you’re using a baggie, whereas I’ve found that it takes a lot to get coverage in a bowl. If I use a big bowl, it takes a large volume of liquid and when I used a small but deep bowl, to my chagrin I discovered that the mushrooms were wedged in hovering above the marinade in the bottom! The mushrooms should marinate in the fridge for at least a few hours before cooking. If you want to marinate them the day before, that’s okay, too.

What about seasonings? What you put in the marinade depends on what you’re going to put on them later, on the grill. You can marinate them in flavored olive oil and or add dried herbs to the marinade, but if you’re going to add any seasonings or embellishments while grilling it’s real easy to get flavor overkill and clashes. Having herbed the living hell out of the marinade and then added herbed cheese when they’re on the grill, I’ve learned my lesson.

My own preference is to go light on the marinade herbs and added Cheesy Girl vegetarian chevre to the mushroom caps halfway through the cooking time. Cheesy Girl makes cheese with a variety of seasonings and though you could echo some of those in the marinade, that’s not necessary and may be too much. Really, for my tastes, the herbed cheese with the simple unseasoned marinade described above, is perfection. You will, of course, want to experiment with your own herbs and local cheeses. 😀

Grill the mushrooms, gill side down first, for about 6 minutes on each side. When you turn the mushroom gill side up, add the cheese, then grill another 6 minutes. We usually grill with the grill covered for both mushrooms and corn. The mushrooms will be very juicy and will continue to leak juice for some minutes after you take them off the grill. (For this reason I don’t recommend slapping them on a bun straight from the grill.) I like mayo on these burgers: it does a good job of keeping the bun from getting soggy and the mild flavor complements the mild cheese.

For grilling corn I prefer unhusked corn: it’s just easier to season and deal with. If the corn hasn’t been shucked, shuck the corn, stripping off the silks. If you don’t get every single one, don’t worry, they’ll usually cook off on the grill. Put two spoonfuls of spreadable margarine on a plate, splash on some lime juice, then sprinkle on your favorite chili powder. (I use Mexene chili powder.) Mush and stir it all together on the plate, then roll the corn in it, slather it on with your hands if you want to, to get the corn cobs covered well.

Grill the corn directly on the grill for about 6 minutes total, turning frequently, with the grill covered between turnings. The corn will be nicely seasoned with smoke. 🙂

Other side dishes you may want to make, particularly if you’re feeding a crowd: BBQ Baked Beans, Frankenslaw, and Potato Salad.

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Mushroom Quesadillas with Chiles and Chipotle Cheese

Quesadillas, ready to serve with salsa!

Quesadillas, ready to serve with salsa!

These are a favorite around here and are eaten as fast as I can cook them up! This recipe makes four. You may want to keep the first ones someplace warm as you cook the rest — if you’re not serving them out as you make them! You can make quesadillas with smaller or larger tortillas. Adjust the amount of cheese and filling accordingly. The medium-sized tortillas seem the best choice to me; the small ones just seem too small and the bigger ones are really tricky to turn over, even with my super-sized spatula. The skillet pictured below is a 12 inch skillet and medium sized tortillas are just about the right size for it.

1 poblano pepper
5-7 white button mushrooms
8 tortillas, 7-8″ diameter
1 block Cabot chipotle cheddar

There are a number of variations you can make to moderate (or increase) spiciness. You don’t need a “quesadilla maker”, just a skillet. The trick to quesadillas with any kind of vegetable inside is to cook the veggies first, because the actual cooking time for each quesadilla is mere minutes — just enough to toast the tortilla a bit and melt the cheese.

Deseed and slice the poblano pepper in strips, then cut the strips in pieces not more than a couple of inches long. Saute in a small amount of oil while you clean and remove stems from the mushrooms. Slice the mushrooms, then give them a brief coarse chopping to make the pieces a bit smaller (unless the caps are very small). Throw them in with the poblano peppers and saute until the mushrooms have changed color and the peppers are done. Remember: they’re not going to get any significant amount of cooking after they’re added to the quesadillas, so cook them to the amount of doneness you want.

You can grate the cheese for this, but I just slice it. For this amount (four 8 inch quesadillas) you won’t use up the whole block. Put the cheese in the center on the tortilla, leaving an inch or an inch and a half around the edge. Scoop a small amount, about a quarter of the amount cooked up, on top of the cheese, leaving the same margin around the edge. Place another tortilla on top, then place the quesadilla in a moderately hot skillet. (I cook these on about 4 on my electric stove.) See slideshow below for pics of  cheese, amount of filling, cooking, etc.) Let it cook briefly, pressing with a spatula a bit, until the tortilla has gotten toasty and brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted. This will only take a minute or two. Turn it over carefully. (I use my favorite round spatula, which is larger than the usual.) Brown the other side, taking care not to scorch either side. You may want to turn them more than once until you get a feel for how long they need on each side based on your stove. The cheese is the glue that holds the ingredients and tortillas together. Give it time to melt before you flip the first time.

Cut into quarters and serve hot with salsa.

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You can make these with just the chipotle cheese, if you need to throw something together a little more quickly. The spicy cheddar makes even plain cheese quesadillas special.

If you want a much milder version of these quesadillas, substitute a milder cheddar, one that doesn’t have peppers in it, or perhaps a plain jack cheese or queso blanco. The poblanos are mild peppers, but flavorful. If you want a hotter quesadilla, substitute a hot pepper for the poblano, but be careful!

I like the combination of flavors with the chipotle cheddar, poblano, and mushrooms but there are a lot of combinations of different types of cheese and other ingredients that can be put into quesadillas. The only things you need to keep in mind is to cook the vegetables first and not to over-load the tortillas when filling them. The filling should be a single layer, not heaped up on the cheese, nor should it completely cover the cheese. Never use more filling than you have cheese to glue it all together.