Holiday Mushroom Appetizer
This is one of those vegetarian dishes that I love to see on the menu when traveling. You just can’t go wrong with nuts and cheese!
In this case, the nuts and cheese are, respectively, walnuts and goat cheese, and I love them both. Goat cheese tastes creamy and fresh, and pairs exquisitely well with crunchy nuts. Season the whole thing with fresh herbs and stuff it into mushrooms, and you’ve got a dish that will never disappoint.
The spices here are two of the four mentioned in one of the most recognizable song lyrics in the world—parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Both rosemary and sage are incredibly rich sources of anti-oxidants and natural anti-inflammatories. And let’s not forget shallots. A member of the allium genus that includes onions, leeks, and chives, shallots contain a range of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, including quercetin, which is also found in apples, onions, and dietary supplements.
Of course, the holidays are all about flavor too. And guests will love the richness of this vegetarian-friendly appetizer, which goes well with almost any holiday meal. Enjoy! —Dr. Jonny
Notes from the Clean Food Coach
Cremini mushrooms are simply young portobello mushrooms, sometimes called baby bellas. They’re pale brown and firm, and the caps on the freshest ones will cover the gills. If you can’t find cremini mushrooms, you can substitute large white button mushrooms, but they won’t be quite as flavorful.
Featured Ingredient: Walnuts
Like fish, walnuts are a brain food, largely because they contain more omega-3 fats than any other nut. It’s not the same type of omega-3 found in fish, but like its fish-based relatives, it’s anti-inflammatory, making it good for both brain and heart. Walnuts contain about 2.5 grams of omega-3 per 1 oz. serving, which isn’t bad. They also contain a similar amount (about 2.5 grams per serving) of monounsaturated fat, which is the same fat found in olive oil.
Please note that all walnuts are not the same. The two most common varieties you’re likely to run into are English walnuts and black walnuts. Black walnuts contain much more monounsaturated fat than their English cousins, but fewer omega-3s. On the other hand, black dried walnuts have a little more protein (6.7 grams) per 1-oz. serving than the English variety (4.3 grams). Both types of walnuts have a nice amount of fiber—just under 2 grams per serving—and roughly the same number of calories.
For an attractive holiday serving idea, arrange a single layer of fresh cranberries on a platter and top with stuffed mushrooms and other appetizers.
Sanchez, Claudia & Izquierdo-Pulido, Maria. (2015). Health Benefits of Walnut Polyphenols: An Exploration beyond Their Lipid Profile. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 57. 10.1080/10408398.2015.1126218.
Bamberger, Charlotte & Rossmeier, Andreas & Lechner, Katharina & Wu, Liya & Waldmann, Elisa & Fischer, Sandra & Stark, Renee & Altenhofer, Julia & Henze, Kerstin & Parhofer, Klaus. (2018). A Walnut-Enriched Diet Affects Gut Microbiome in Healthy Caucasian Subjects: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 10. 10.3390/nu10020244.
Will Eating Nuts Make You Gain Weight? Elizabeth Neale, Sze-Yen Tan, Yasmine Probst, 18 February 2019.
Muthaiyah, Balu & Musthafa, Mohamed Essa & Lee, Moon & Chauhan, Ved & Kaur, Kulbir & Chauhan, Abha. (2014). Dietary Supplementation of Walnuts Improves Memory Deficits and Learning Skills in Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease: JAD. 2014. 10.3233/JAD-140675.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
- Brush mushrooms clean, twist off their stems, and reserve. Spray mushroom caps lightly with olive oil, and arrange stem-side-up in prepared baking pan. Roast 15 minutes.
- While mushrooms are roasting, finely chop reserved mushroom stems. Heat about 1 Tbs. olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped stems and shallot. Season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Sauté 3–5 minutes, until mushrooms have released their liquids and reduced in size. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In mixing bowl, combine chèvre, walnuts, thyme, rosemary, and zest, if using. Add cooled stem and shallot mixture, and gently combine all ingredients. When mushrooms have softened in oven, remove and carefully drain any excess liquid.
- Form generous balls out of goat cheese mixture, and press into the center of each mushroom cap, filling completely and mounding high. Return to oven, 12 minutes or until goat cheese has browned lightly on the top. Arrange on a decorative platter to serve.