Piled Portabellos for Appropriate Posterity

I’ve discovered something that I think I always knew, but perhaps didn’t want to admit. There is a time and a place for every food, and there are some situations in which a certain meal is perfect, and some moments in which it is simply not right. In this case, I faced the reality by making the same “special” dish twice in the course of maybe a year or so. That doesn’t seem like a small amount of time to repeat a certain dish, but the differences in circumstances were truly polar opposites. Neither of which were necessarily bad (in the sense that we honestly had a great time during both occasions), but it just made it so clear that specific ingredients or meals are absolutely more appropriate in certain environments.

I love basil, I love tomatoes, I love mushrooms, and I LOVVVVVVVE goat cheese (when used in a smart way). A while back, I found a fabulous dish called a “Tomato, Basil, and Portabello Napoleon” that absolutely captured my heart. We have a couple that we love to hang out with – they are incredibly fun to be around and amazing friends. One night quite a long time ago, we decided to have a gathering of the two couples in which they provided the entertainment (wii games, music, etc.) and I provided the sustenance. I made this elaborate three-course adventure of spectacular snacks, but by the end of the night, my carefully planned gastronomical evening was completed (by the other couple’s decision) with summer sausage and mild cheddar cheese. I had literally coordinated a very thoughtful selection of this Napoleon dish, special potatoes particularly prepared in a cool, sexy way, and a delicious berry salad with home-made almond brittle… only to be met with a finale of mild cheese and semi-meat. I’ve always been totally ok with having a casual evening of food and fun, but in my attempt at an astronomical evening of fancy finger foods, I missed the fact that this was the couple that we can happily have some beers and burgers with, no bells and whistles.

Disappointed in the fact that I still felt this dish was special, I chose to share it with a different couple almost a year later, that we also greatly enjoy spending time with. This is a couple that has spent many years in the food and wine industry, and quite frankly dwarfs my experience in a humble yet educational way. We always have an amazing time with this couple, just as the first, but in a different world, if that makes any sense. Sometimes we actually spend too much money (and once it was even my fault due to my firm belief in server karma, haha), but I always seem to have a much more meaningful, ethereal experience with this couple when we spend an evening together. So I brought the same dish with very slight modifications based on timing. I had an issue the first time with trying to sear the crust on the goat cheese, so I decided to just roll it in the herbs and leave the cheese in a cool, “pressed” ball instead of attempting to cook it again.

It is such a simple dish, yet so tasty and delicate that it should truly be enjoyed in a quiet moment with great friends. I will definitely make this again, but will always be aware of the necessity for a calm appreciation for the subtleties of life and food. In the end, no matter who you share your special moments with or how they progress or conclude, it’s most important that you enjoy every bit of life, friendship, and frivolity. Whether or not you find the perfect opportunity, I hope you can find a lovely moment in which this beautiful dish can really shine…

Tomato, Basil and Portobello Napoleons


2 tbsp (30 mL) white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1/4 tsp (1 mL) Italian Seasoning Mix
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) Basil Oil or olive oil

2 large tomatoes
1 pkg. (6 oz or 170 g) small portobello mushroom caps (about 6 mushrooms)
1 log (3.5-4 oz/100-125 g) goat cheese
1/3 cup (75 mL) pine nuts, grated
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh bread crumbs
1/2 tsp (2 mL) Italian Seasoning Mix
1 tbsp (15 mL) Basil Oil
4 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
Additional Basil Oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). For dressing, combine vinegar, garlic, seasoning mix and salt in Small Batter Bowl. Slowly add oil, whisking until well blended. For napoleons, cut each tomato into four 1/2-inch-thick (1-cm) slices. Place tomato slices and mushrooms on Large Bar Pan lined with Parchment Paper. Brush dressing on both sides of vegetables using Chef’s Silicone Basting Brush. Bake 20-25 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven; cut mushrooms into 1/2-in. (1 cm) slices using Utility Knife.

Slice goat cheese evenly into eight rounds; form each slice into a ball. Combine nuts, bread crumbs and seasoning mix in shallow dish. Place each cheese ball into nut mixture. Press gently to flatten; turn to coat both sides. Heat oil in Executive (10-in./25 cm) Sauté Pan over medium heat until hot. Cook goat cheese rounds 30-45 seconds on each side or until coating is light golden brown, turning with Small Slotted Turner. Remove from pan.

To assemble each napoleon, layer tomato slice, mushroom slices and basil; repeat layers one time. Top with two goat cheese rounds. Drizzle with additional oil, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings

Nutrients per serving: Calories 260, Total Fat 23 g, Saturated Fat 6 g, Cholesterol 20 mg, Carbohydrate 10 g, Protein 9 g, Sodium 300 mg, Fiber 2 g

U.S. Diabetic exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, 1 high-fat meat, 3 fat (0 carb)

Cook’s Tips: Goat cheese by nature is rather crumbly and tacky. Coatings tend to fall off easily if the cheese is simply sliced into rounds. Forming goat cheese slices into balls and pressing them into the pine nut mixture softens the cheese enough to let the coating adhere.

To thinly slice basil, stack the leaves and roll them into a tight cylinder. Using the Chef’s Knife, slice the roll crosswise into thin strips. This technique is called chiffonade (shif-un-NAHD).

copyright The Pampered Chef, 2007


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