I love to set our dining table with good linens, dishes and flowers and treat our friends to a fine meal.
I choose simple entrees that can be roasted, grilled or sauteed and look for interesting vegetable accompaniments that can be prepared in advance.
Portobellos Stuffed With Spinach and Fresh Mozzarellawould make a fine addition to a dinner-party menu.
Large 4-inch mushrooms are stemmed, brushed generously with olive oil and broiled until tender. For the filling, sauteed spinach and chopped garlic are combined with bits of snowy white fresh mozzarella, grated parmesan and a hint of nutmeg.
This filling can be spooned into the mushroom cavities several hours ahead so that at serving time the stuffed portobellos need only to be popped in the oven for about 10 minutes.
These delicious mushrooms could garnish a roasted chicken, sauteed veal scallops or grilled steaks.
For our next party, I've decided to serve them with racks of lamb roasted with sliced red skin potatoes. A light watercress soup will begin our menu and a lemon curd tart topped with fresh strawberries will end it.
Portabellos Stuffed With Spinach and Fresh Mozzarella
Makes 6 servings
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons extra if needed
6 large portobello mushrooms, about 4 inches in diameter
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound baby spinach, cleaned and dried
4 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2 -inch dice
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano- Reggiano plus extra chunk at room temperature for shaving
Preheat broiler and arrange a rack 5 inches from heat source. Line a large baking sheet with foil and brush with some of the olive oil.
Wipe the mushrooms clean with damp paper towels, then remove and discard mushroom stems. Scoop out and discard the tough inside centers where mushroom stems were attached. Brush both sides of mushrooms generously with about half of the oil and place them, dark gill side up, on the prepared baking sheet.
Season generously with salt and pepper. Broil mushrooms 5 minutes, then turn with tongs. Broil until mushrooms are tender when pierced with a knife, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
For stuffing, heat 1/4 cup of remaining oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add a handful of the spinach. Stir constantly a few seconds until spinach wilts, then add another handful and stir. Continue adding spinach in this way until all has been added. Stir and cook until all the spinach is completely wilted, 2 to 3 minutes more.
Add garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and the nutmeg and stir and cook a minute more. Remove spinach (but do not clean skillet) to a large strainer or colander. Press down on spinach with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
Return spinach to skillet in which it was cooked. Place skillet over low heat and stir in mozzarella and grated parmesan. Cook just until cheeses start to melt, only 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and season with more salt if needed.
Divide spinach mixture evenly and mound into cavities of mushrooms. (Mushrooms can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cool, then cover with plastic wrap and leave at cool room temperature. Reheat on a foil-lined baking sheet on center shelf of preheated 350-degree oven until hot, about 10 minutes.)
To serve, garnish each mushroom with several shavings of parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.