Where a perfect balance of savory and sweet is found, there delicious complexity resides, and magic can be tasted. After all, how would one know the joy of something sweet on the tongue without ever having experienced the depth of something savory, or vice versa? What could either one be compared against if it wasn’t for its opposite? It seems to me that blandness would dominate without the opposite yet equally necessary natures of both sweet and savory, as individually, they each bring only one side of the spectrum; but together, they make up the totality, the whole delectable flavor of a well-rounded bite. And what a bite it is, when the two come together in happy harmony; what a union of nuance and fullness of flavor. When both are there, side by side, then the unique essence of each can be fully realized and appreciated. And it makes the very desire to continue partaking of their wholeness that much stronger and more present, indeed.
What a perfect little vehicle the mini portobello mushroom is, when it comes to being exquisitely filled with both sweet and savory ingredients. It beautifully cradles and holds within itself those two very different aspects or qualities, and soaks up the deliciously unique flavors that each bring, resulting in each bite taken from that little mushroom as being balanced and complete. It makes me imagine my own life as being like that little portobello stuffed with all of those precious moments of sweetness in life that are often made that much more divinely sweet when combined with the sharp, salty-ness of the more “savory” moments in my life; and conversely, those salty, more challenging moments in my life are made more bearable with mercy and love as the sweet salve. The presence of both the sweetness and the savory-ness in our lives is what makes for a total human experience; it offers balance. It is what can turn a disagreement between two people into an ultimately positive and much needed experience in the end, with a wonderful lesson learned, because though opposition was present in the heat of the moment, there was love still attached; or it can create an even greater sense of gratitude for those moments when the love in life is indeed abounding and present, because difficulty and challenge have also been tasted. When both of the qualities of “sweet” and “savory” are known to us, when they are each present in our lives, then that rich, complex taste of living life fully becomes undeniable; and it’s what the palette then begins to crave once it has experienced that taste.
To long to stuff ourselves to the gills, like little portobello mushrooms, with both the joys and challenges that exist in this world — the sweetness and the savory — is to long for a life well-seasoned and well-lived. To see how two opposites can reside together and ultimately compliment each other is to see potential wholeness, and gain a greater depth of understanding and appreciation for what is. The savory somehow makes the sweet seem even sweeter, while the sweetness softens the edges of the sharpness of the savory; and when we long to taste the magic in life, then we find that both are needed, equally.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Stuffed Mini Portobello Mushrooms with an Herbed, Sweet Italian Sausage, Dried Apple and Vermont Cheddar Stuffing
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(Makes 12 stuffed mushrooms, serves about 4)
• Olive oil
3 sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed
½ small onion, finely diced
6 ounces (a little less that half a loaf) French bread, finely cubed
¼ cup dried apples, chopped
6 fluid ounces chicken stock, warm
2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped, divided use
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ cup grated Vermont cheddar (or any extra sharp, white cheddar), divided use
• Freshly cracked black pepper
12 mini portobello mushrooms, stems removed and gills scraped out
-Preheat the oven to 400°, and line a baking sheet with foil.
-Place a medium-size saute pan over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil; add the sweet Italian sausage into the hot pan, and break it up into as fine a crumble as possible while it browns for a few moments; once browned, remove the sausage from pan, and set aside; leave the heat on the pan.
-Next, add the diced onion into the same hot pan, and saute it in the drippings for a couple of minutes until golden-brown; set aside for a moment.
-To make the stuffing, add the finely cubed French bread into a medium-size bowl; next, add in the browned and crumbled sausage, the sauteed onion, the dried apples, the chicken stock, the melted butter, the parsley, 1 teaspoon of the fresh thyme leaves, the honey and the Italian seasoning; using your hands, mix the stuffing together very well to incorporate the ingredients; next, add in ¼ cup of the grated Vermont cheddar along with a pinch of salt and black pepper, and once again incorporate those into the stuffing, well.
-To stuff the mushrooms, first drizzle a little olive oil over each of them, along with a pinch of salt and black pepper; next, stuff each cap with about 2-3 tablespoons worth of the stuffing, or enough so that it overflows a little above the top of the mushroom cap, and drizzle just a touch more olive oil over, and bake for about 25 minutes until mushrooms are tender and the stuffing warm; to finish the mushrooms, sprinkle over each one a little of the remaining ¼ cup of Vermont cheddar, and place back into the oven for a few minutes more to melt the cheese.
-To serve, plate the mushrooms and top each of them with a sprinkle of the remaining 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves.