This post was originally published a while back. I wasn’t happy with the pictures—admittedly, I was just learning how to work a camera—so I wanted to give this recipe another chance to be seen with some new pictures. A few tweaks to the post, and a minor one to the recipe, have also been made along with a few notes for clarification. This recipe is perfect for entertaining when you have mixed company (in this instance, meaning meat-eaters and vegetarians alike) because the meatiness of mushrooms, and the heartiness of the beans make this a filling meal—not the wimpy, persnickety fare that sometimes conjure when we think “vegetarian”. Not to mention, there are vegan possibilities!
I hate to call anything “health food”. There’s the argument that in calling certain foods, recipes or methods of preparation and cooking “healthy” it means that anything that does not fall neatly into those categories is “unhealthy”. Because of our connotations to these words we mentally define them as “good” and “bad”, respectively. There are certainly foods that are “bad” for us to some extent—brownies, cake, deep fried chicken, greasy burgers, full-fat cheese, heavy cream, etc.—but if we eat them in the now-passé-to-say way of “moderation” they’re far less lethal than, say, eating the leaves of rhubarb, under ripe potatoes, ill-prepared puffer fish or haphazardly eating wild mushrooms you find on the forest floor.
But for me it goes beyond this metaphysical philosophy and the act of canonizing some foods while we demonize others. When I think of health food I think of low-fat, low-cal, low-sodium, all natural, whole grain, no added this or that, and so on. I think of the term “conscience eating”, making sure every ingredient is evaluated on its merits to better health or weight loss first. Never mind that fat-free cheese has the taste and texture of rubber bands, though it doesn’t melt quite as well– it’s “healthier” than real cheese so to hell with it. It feels so constricting and stifling, being confined to using certain ingredients and restricted from others. So when I think of health food I think of being restricted and confined to a certain set of things, slavishly working within these rigidly defined parameters and, as such, creativity, fluidity and joy are words you can’t quite associate with it. On the other side, “unhealthy” food has no rules, no restrictions and no limitations—you’re free, free, free! Now, what sounds like more fun?
I also think of that episode of Absolutely Fabulous, where Eddy is on another health kick and takes a slug of some awful health drink, gags it back and says, “Oh, God! It tastes foul so it must be doing me some good.” It’s the old adage we’ve all heard and said; why do things that are bad for us taste so good and healthy things taste so bad?
So rather than think of anything as “health food”, I prefer to think of it as a method to either undo the damage I’ve done over the weekend, prepare me for the damage I’m about to do, or feel the need to be brought back to my center when I get a little carried away on chocolate chip cookies or eat nothing but Carbonara for a week straight. Yes—it’s not about moderation or self-control, it’s about being centered. This recipe here is a great way to nourish those needs but still allows you certain freedoms; there are beans (carbs!), full-fat cheeses (fat!), olive oil (more fat!) and alcohol (empty calories and sugar!), but, as you’ll see, done with your own self-centeredness in mind it’s hardly worth the mention (take that how you will).
When I think of stuffed mushrooms, I usually think of the petite creminis stuffed with sausage or cheeses for parties. A regular meal in our house is a larger version of this, portabellas stuffed with Italian sausage and kale, but I love this vegetarian one. There’s something about the pairing of mushrooms, Marsala, and rosemary—though thyme could be substituted—and these flavors work so well with cannellini beans, a willing blank canvas. To make this truly vegetarian you can’t actually use authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano, as it contains rennet, but regular Parmesan can be substituted. I mean, Parmigiano isn’t really necessary but for me, the cannellini, rosemary and Marsala make this feel like an Italian meal so I gravitate towards the real deal. In fact, at that point, you could always substitute the Parmigiano for vegan Parmesan to make this a vegan meal (and, incongruently, you could grind up some prosciutto and mix it in with the breadcrumbs and parm that you top the shrooms with for a little extra flavor).
Whether you’re vegetarian or not, you’ll find this totally satisfying. It’s a pretty quick and easy vegetarian meal that’s not only delicious but it’s also pretty “healthy” (if you’re into that).
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