Magic Mushrooms

As I've mentioned on this blog before, my family is mainly meat-free. This lifestyle is not a problem for our small children who have never enjoyed the flavor sausage brings to pasta sauce or what fat from beef adds to your stew because they have no idea what they are missing. But, for my husband and I (who were both raised omnivorous) there has been some time of "adjustment".

We have researched and experimented until we collected a nice stable of everyday recipes that we recognize as home-cooking. Flavored seitan and TVP have been integral as meat substitutes in this process (as seen in the Sausage & Angel Hair Pasta and Tomato-y Vegetarian Chili we have shared here previously). What also has been a key ingredient in the kitchen is mushrooms.

I will admit, chopping mushrooms is a bore.

Today I want to share with you what we call our "Magic Mushroom Base". So far we have used it in both Italian and Mexican dishes to great success. Here's how it goes:

Magic Mushroom Base
1lb mushrooms of random varieties (we like to mix them up)
1 medium onion
3 cloves pressed garlic
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more, keep the bottle handy)
2 tbsp tomato paste

Dice onion and saute in butter and 1/4 cup olive oil until transparent. Press garlic in and saute for a couple minutes. Add tomato paste and cook it until it starts to caramelize (which means it will start sticking to the pan, so as you stir you scrape the bottom over and over until the paste goes from medium red to a deeper shade of brick red).
The tomato paste getting deeper red.
Then it's time to add the cleaned and chopped mushrooms. Turn them over and over with a wooden spoon, coating them completely. If you feel like it needs more moisture go ahead and splash some more olive oil in at this point. Not too much though, you want to keep this thick.

Turning the mushrooms over and over.
If you would like your mushrooms flavored for a Mexican (we use Penzy's taco seasoning) or Italian dish (we use oregano and basil), this is the time to add your spices. Turn the mushrooms over and over until they are soft and sauteed completely.

Now what you have is a thick mushroom base that is a great filling for enchiladas, lasagna, sub sandwiches, etc. Anywhere you would use ground meat or meatballs. This is why it's magic. :)

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