My former neighbor, the one who got me started on growing tomatillos after she grew the ones I made into a tasty salsa verde, is well along on the building of a new home. When I wrote the post about her and her boyfriend (now husband) building a house it seemed a long way off before I would no longer see her almost daily to converse about the state of the garden, the neighborhood, the cats, the latest movie… (you get my drift). Or that one day soon we would no longer be able to stumble home from a beverage at each other’s houses/gardens. That day arrived sooner than expected last July when they sold their house across the street, de-camped to temporary digs in a neighboring city and broke ground on what has proved to be one of the wettest home builds, ev-ah.
Central North Carolina weather-wise has looked more like Seattle or Portland since last summer. Overcast, cool, and frequent day long rain. For the first time in memory I lost plants and bulbs in my garden due to overly wet conditions. So it seemed fitting that on a rainy spring day we drove to their temporary condo and then up to the new home site for a tour and then back to the condo for dinner while the rain poured hard enough to set off the motion detector lights.
The new house is looking really good and I can picture all of us sipping a cocktail on the screened in porch, having appetizers in the new living room that opens onto the kitchen, and me and D crashing in the guest room rather than driving back home after dinner heavy on vegetables from the new garden. Well, picture it just as soon as there are walls, and a porch, and screens, and all that. While I’m at it, the picture includes them making us breakfast, so J and P – take note.
Part of being able to picture all this in their new home is that they are both great hosts and cooked us a fantastic meal; no small feat these days since I am avoiding dairy, wheat, and other grains, and J is a vegetarian. (The meal in part played homage to Jennifer Paterson and Clarrisa Dickson Wright, the two chefs of The Two Fat Ladies cooking series on PBS. More on that in another post along with other tidbits from the meal.). For the vegetarian and non-dairy eating crowd, they prepared marinated grilled portabella mushroom caps and a red bean salad from Rachel Ray.
The red bean salad would be perfect for an easy weeknight dinner or at a summer party. No dairy, lots of veggies and it gets better as it marinates. J had some trouble finding red pepper relish, a key ingredient in the marinade, but the green pepper relish she substituted tasted just perfect with the beans and veggies as well as a compliment to our non-vegetarian steaks. Check the link above for directions for this easy salad.
The marinated portabella mushrooms are also a quick prep item. For years I served them as appetizers at dinner and for vegetarians at cookouts. They stand up well on their own, with side dishes, and are good on a bun. The following is based on J’s ingredients and a recipe I’ve used for many years:
4 Portabella mushroom caps*
2 splashes of Olive oil (1-2 tablespoons – the oil will be released into the grill so less may be better in this case)
1 splash Balsamic vinegar (1-2 teaspoons, depending on taste)
Basil, oregano or other favorite herbs (Anything from a few sprinkles to a small handful. Use less if using dried, more if using chopped fresh and depending on your taste)
salt and pepper
Remove the stems (if needed) and brush the caps free of any debris with a cloth or paper towel. Mix the oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper. Brush onto the portabella caps. Marinate briefly. Grill or broil until soft. Depending on the temperature and thickness of the caps, may take up to 20 minutes. They should be soft, but still firm enough that you need a knife to cut them. Watch for flare ups from the oil. If you don’t have a broiler or grill, you can bake on a high heat in the oven or even cook in a skillet – they just won’t have the grilled flavor.
*For grilling, Look for portabellas that are large, firm and where you can see the gills (the brown feathery parts on the underside). Buy them out of packaging if possible so you can examine them. They should be very dry and the gills should not be producing spores. The more flat the caps are the more matured the mushroom is. Nothing wrong with them at this point, but they may be too fragile for grilling. If they are damp (or, eeek, slimy) or you can see extensive spores from the gills, they are too old, in my opinion, for the grill.