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During the coronavirus, it’s feast or famine in my kitchen

Recently, that meant pounds and pounds of mushrooms and onions.
The fixings for onion- and smoked gouda-stuffed mushrooms.
The fixings for onion- and smoked gouda-stuffed mushrooms. [ LISA MERKLIN | Times ]
Published Apr. 21, 2020

My diet has been all over the map lately.

Some days, I cook more complicated meals than the simple ones I generally make for my household of one. With more time around the house and more nervous energy, I’m churning out pans of salted caramel brownies and chocolate chip bread and spinning unused vegetables into dishes of pan-fried noodles and hearty stews.

Other days, it’s simply enough that I’m putting something — anything — into my body. Bonus if it’s warmed up.

It’s feast or famine in this kitchen.

The problem isn’t just my vacillating willingness to whip up a hot meal for one; it’s also a supply issue. Social distancing has dictated that I minimize my grocery store trips, venturing out only when absolutely necessary. When I do, I must plan more carefully; no more frequent, last-minute runs for forgotten items. What’s in the cupboard once I’ve unloaded all my groceries is what I have to work with, nothing more.

When, inevitably, a person as scattered as I am forgets a key ingredient, it warrants some resourceful and creative workarounds.

Sometimes the challenge is missing ingredients, and sometimes it’s an overabundance of others. How, for instance, did I end up with a 10-pound bag of yellow onions and a massive container of baby Bella mushrooms after one trip? All other options were out of stock. Better to have too many onions than none at all?

My meals started to take on a monotonous theme: mushroom and onion stir-fry, mushroom and onion quesadillas, burgers smothered with mushrooms and onions, mushroom and onion stew and, on one desperate occasion, simply a bowl of sauteed mushrooms and onions, garnished with despair.

The fixings for onion and smoked gouda-stuffed mushrooms
The fixings for onion and smoked gouda-stuffed mushrooms [ LISA MERKLIN | Times ]

And afterward, I still had mushrooms and onions left.

Determined to use up the last of the hated mushrooms, I ransacked my pantry and refrigerator for ideas and found a small wheel of smoked Gouda I had reserved for a now-canceled social gathering. The wheels started turning, and I decided to try my hand at homemade stuffed mushrooms.

I’m glad I did. The tender and savory caps were a perfect vehicle for molten cheese, and they disappeared quickly. They almost made me wish I had more mushrooms. Almost.

Onion and Smoked Gouda-Stuffed Mushrooms

The fixings for onion and smoked gouda-stuffed mushrooms
The fixings for onion and smoked gouda-stuffed mushrooms [ LISA MERKLIN | Times ]

½ tablespoon butter

½ small onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 large baby Bella mushrooms, stems removed and diced

1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded

¼ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried basil

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a skillet, then saute the onions, garlic and diced mushroom stems for 3 minutes.

Combine the sauteed mixture, shredded cheese, bread crumbs and basil, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and mound about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture into the center of each mushroom cap.

Bake for 8 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Serve hot.

Makes enough filling for a dozen 2-inch mushroom caps. Recipe is easily doubled.

Source: Lisa Merklin, Tampa Bay Times