Nooch Night (featuring Gluten-Free Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms with Rosemary and Garlic)
August 5th, 2015
My right index finger traced invisible circles on the tablecloth next to my water glass.
Francis, my fiancé, sat across from me grinning gently. He lay his hand on top of mine and a wave of warmth traveled up my arm into my rosy cheeks.
“I don’t want to go back to New York without you,” I whined lovingly.
“I know,” he replied. “But it’s just for a few more months.” His grin softened and grew into a full smile and I knew I was on the right path.
We had become betrothed in May– a relaxed engagement that might have lasted for years. But then a big health scare and the loss of a family member provoked an urgency for joy, and a wedding date was chosen.
In October, we would tie the knot at my parent’s home in Connecticut. Until then, I would continue to live in New York City and Francis would wait for me in Portland, Oregon, where I would move in the beginning of 2016.
It was Francis’ 50th birthday and we were waiting for our appetizers at a busy upscale vegan restaurant Northeast Portland. Vegan dining was a request from Francis who had started a cholesterol restrictive diet on doctor’s orders. Though this was only 4 years ago, it felt like vegan food was right on the tipping point of becoming the ubiquitous cuisine that it is today. Always eager to expand my cooking repertoire with healthier options, I was excited about the meal.
The waitress set our salads in front of us, full of roasted beet wedges, a rainbow of radishes, and bright greens from local farmers served with hemp-infused fake cheese and a light vinaigrette.
“Vegans sure do eat a lot of fake cheese,” I joked after our waitress left. “More than non-vegans eat real cheese, you know?”
Francis shrugged like he hadn’t really thought much about it and dug into his salad.
I watched men with full beards and women in batiked maxi dresses mingle at the bar. Everyone looked very happy and healthy. There was a meat-loving, hard New Yorker within me that would have to soften in Portland, and I smirked at the possibilities.
Our waitress brought an appetizer for us to share; roasted potatoes with chopped garlic, sprinkled with nutritional yeast and a minty cashew cream dipping sauce. We talked more about our future as we nibbled.
“Hopefully I’ll get a chance to come to New York sometime before the wedding,” Francis said.
“I hope so honey, I rea…” and I stopped short as an urgent and possibly explosive bubble was suddenly growing in my belly. “I… um… I…” And I shifted in my wooden chair hoping it would silently absorb this gaseous percolation without tipping off my future husband.
Our waitress set down our entrees– if I remember correctly, mine was a tofu curry, with coconut milk and yet another hefty sprinkling of nutritional yeast.
“Yummmm!” I faked enthusiasm as my stomach churned with another vaporous gift.
I looked at my plate, too distracted to eat.
“Are you ok?” Francis asked.
“I’ll be right back,” and I ran off to relieve some pressure.
This can’t be happening on our last night next to each other for months! Get yourself together, Alison, I thought. But of course, intestines don’t take direction from your mind. You can’t just think farts away.
I returned from the bathroom to find Francis with a weird look on his face. He shifted awkwardly in his chair. I did not point and exclaim, “Ah ha! You’re having the same reaction to this food that I am!” but I wanted to.
“How’s your food, honey?” I asked.
“It’s good. I’m… um… I guess I’m just really full,” he said, sitting still as a statue.
“Yeah… um… me too.”
We paid the check and walked to the car in a dread-full silence, and then spilled the beans to each other a few minutes later. This story is not about the magic of our love and how we romantically ripped farts all night. We went to the drug store and affectionately shared some antacids. We did have a good laugh after everything had quieted down. We still refer to that restaurant as the fart palace.
Actually, the reason I’m telling you this story is that for years I’ve been afraid of using nutritional yeast in my cooking because of that night. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated (not living) yeast that is full of protein and B12. It’s great for your immune system and can help with allergies and acne and give you more gusto when you’re working out. It tastes sort of nutty and cheesy which is why it’s such a great vegan substitute. It’s fantastic on popcorn and sprinkled on pizza or pasta. It’s basically the best thing to come to planet earth since sliced gluten-free bread, but you can over-do it. Some of the side effects include “unpleasant digestive issues” and migraine headaches. If memory serves, every single item on that restaurant’s menu contained nutritional yeast. Now it’s not listed anywhere on their menu. As with all things, moderation is key.
I’ll never know if it was the nooch (the nickname for nutritional yeast) or something else that night that took us down. I have a lot of clients that need vegan, gluten-free options so I knew I needed to wrestle my nooch fears to the ground. The end result, so to speak, is here for you.
Date-safe, I promise.
Gluten-Free Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms with Rosemary and Garlic
- ½ pound cremini mushrooms (about 14 mushrooms)
- 3 garlic cloves in skins
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more to drizzle over garlic and mushrooms
- 1/2 cup chopped leeks
- tablespoon of marsala
- 1 ½ teaspoon nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
- ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Wipe or rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt. Gently pop the stems out of the mushrooms and chop the stem meat into a dice. Place the stemless mushrooms on a parchment covered sheet pan.
- Place the garlic cloves in tin foil, sprinkling with a little olive oil and salt. Wrap tightly and roast for 25 minutes. They will become soft and lightly brown and smell amazing.
- Heat olive oil in saute pan and then add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Saute for about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add the chopped mushroom stems and saute for another 5 minutes over medium heat, the mushrooms will become darker but should not burn. Splash with the marsala and stir. Add the nutritional yeast, the fresh thyme, and rosemary.
- Squeeze the roasted garlic from the skins onto a cutting board. Using the back of your knife, smoosh the garlic with a little sprinkling of salt. The garlic should be very soft and smooshy. Mix it into the mushroom mixture in your pan.
- Add the breadcrumbs, the balsamic, the white pepper and mix to make sure the flavors are even throughout. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over the mushroom caps on the sheet pan, then sprinkle with a little salt. Using a teaspoon, fill the caps with the stuffing mixture.
- Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
- Garnish with extra rosemary if you like and enjoy!
And here’s a link to me making these on KATU’s Afternoon Live (click on the pic). Live tv is a little challenging when you’re tired, so this one got a little jumbled midway. Follow my recipe, not my tv instructions (I added the marsala after the leeks on tv and I normally add them after the mushrooms.)