I am, and always have been, a ‘shroom lover. As a kid, mushrooms were my favorite pizza topping, though I obviously didn’t understand or appreciate the complexity of the ingredient as I do now. I love the earthiness mushrooms bring to a dish and the way they effortlessly soak up the flavors of a sauce, yet still maintain their identity. I love the chewiness of a cooked mushroom – what ‘shroom haters would describe with disdain as its “texture.” And I love the versatility of the mushroom, how you can throw it into really any dish without worrying about altering the overall quality of the meal.
So when I started studying the science of food, I was thrilled to learn that mushrooms are actually pretty nutritious. At a whopping 15 calories per cup, mushrooms contain folate, vitamin B5 (or pantothenic acid, which is important for nutrient metabolism) and potassium (200-300 mg per cup). Shititake mushrooms in particular also contain a small amount of vitamin D. So while the fungi aren’t as vitamin-rich as, say, the leafy greens, they do provide some nutritional benefit along with their flavor.
Mushrooms have gained some popularity as a healthy, plant-based alternative to meat. The mushroom burger from Shake Shack, for example, is supposed to be incredible (I can’t personally attest to this.) As a dietitian, I love the fact that plant-based eating and meatless menu items are becoming more mainstream. But as a ‘shroom lover, I think that to classify the mushroom as a “meat substitute” really downplays its value as an ingredient. This recipe for mushroom meatballs was created with the mushroom in mind – it is the star of the show. Feel free to use any kind of mushroom you like or have available.
Mushroom Meatballs with Chili-Peanut Sauce
For the meatballs (makes 18):
– 1/2 cup brown rice
– 1 cup vegetable stock
– 1 egg
– 1/2 cup mushrooms
– 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs – 1?2 tsp each salt + pepper
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– Pinch red pepper flakes
For the sauce:
– 4 tbsp soy sauce
– 1 tsp ground ginger
– 1 1/2 tbsp peanut butter
– 2 tsp rice vinegar
– 2 tsp chili oil
– Juice of 1/2 a lime
– 1/2 garlic powder
– 2 tsp honey or molasses
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Cook rice as usual, using vegetable stock in place of water
- Add mushrooms and cooked rice to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- To the mixing bowl, add the remaining meatball ingredients.
- Scoop mixture into balls and place on lightly oiled foil on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes.
- While the balls are baking, make the sauce: simply whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
- When meatballs are cooked, pour sauce over meatballs and serve over rice noodles with sautéed greens.
Photo: Jean Hanks