Friday, November 25, 2011

Mushroom Meat

Click HERE for an updated version of the Mushroom Meat that we cook on P. Allen Smith's Garden to Table.  

Click HERE for the final version that appears in our book, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table

I used to rely on heavy-handed meat substitutes to give my meals that old, familiar texture and flavor that we all grew up on as the center of our 1980's meat-and-three dinners. As I shy away from more and more processed foods, I began looking for a way to get that same familiar result from my own kitchen. The solution for me was to take two things I already love, mushrooms and eggplant, and turn them into a multi-purpose "meat." It's so simple and requires little hands-on time. Make this in large batches, freeze what you don't use, and defrost it to add to tacos or burritos, fill ravioli, or cobble together a homemade veggie burger.

Mushroom Meat
Yields about 4 cups

1/4 cup black olives
5 cloves garlic
6 drops liquid smoke
1/4 cup olive oil
16 oz mushrooms (any kind)
4 cups eggplant (peeled, diced)
1 cup onion (diced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your food processor, make a paste out of the olives, garlic, liquid smoke, and olive oil. Set mixture aside in a bowl. 

Add mushrooms, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Dump processed mushrooms onto a large, rimmed sheet pan. Pulse the eggplant in the food processor in the same manner and dump it onto the sheet pan with the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant and onion with the olive and garlic paste, and using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper. Pop it into the oven for a total of 30 minutes; turn the mixture over a few times with a spatula. The mixture will release a lot of juice, and then it will start to dry out. Once most of the liquid had evaporated or been absorbed, the mixture is ready. Allow it to cool in the pan. 

For an Italian variation, add fresh herbs from the garden. To make a Mexican version, I add a few poblano peppers to the mix along with a palmful of ancho chili powder. The possibilities are endless. Sub this for any recipe that calls for ground beef.