In late 19th century America, mushrooming clubs were the place to be. As mushrooms became a more important part of fashionable French cuisine, American cooks (who took their culinary inspiration from France) went crazy for mushrooms. Clubs began popping up all over the country dedicated to foraging, identifying and cooking various varieties of fungi. Entire cookbooks were devoted to mushrooms, including Kate Sargeant’s One Hundred Mushroom Receipts (1899). The first English language mushroom cookbook, Sargeant’s work includes some fabulous Harry Potter-sounding recipe titles including “Coprinus Comatus Soup (Shaggy Mane),” “Lepiota Procera Stew,” and “Baked Tricholoma Personatum.” In the book’s introduction, Sargeant describes the changing American attitude towards mushrooms at the turn of the century:
The general opinion in this country regarding mushrooms has been, that with one or two exceptions, all forms of fungus growth are either poisonous or unwholesome, but it is very gratifying to observe the change that is rapidly taking place in the public mind. Soon public opinion will acknowledge that it is an established fact that the great majority of the larger funguses, especially of those that grow in fields and other open places, is not only wholesome but highly nutritious.
– Kate Sargeant, One Hundred Mushroom Receipts (1899)
What Kate says may be true, however I don’t recommend that you eat any wild mushrooms without first knowing exactly what they are. Better yet, stick to the ones sold at the grocery store, unless you’re friends with a foraging expert (mistakes can happen!).
In this recipe, mushrooms are the magic ingredient. I make this super simple vegan Chickpea, Spinach and Mushroom Sauté once or twice a week for my husband. It’s one of his favorites. The seared mushrooms, seasoned with garlic and spices, taste almost meaty when combined with the nutty chickpeas and steamed spinach. It’s a homey, comforting sort of dish with no grains and a fairly low glycemic index. I find this recipe to be very nourishing, what we like to call “clean eating.” It’s Mediterranean-inspired, low in calories, loaded with fiber and heart-healthy. Don’t skimp on the olive oil, it adds a lot of flavor. We consider it a one-pot meal; it satisfies as either a lunch or a dinner. I’ve also served this as a side dish to rave reviews from family and friends. The sprinkle of roasted sunflower seeds gives it a lovely crunch. It may not be the prettiest dish, but it’s certainly one of the yummiest. No need to go foraging, common white mushrooms will do just fine. I think Kate Sargeant would approve.
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Chickpea, Spinach and Mushroom Sauté
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz sliced white mushrooms
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
- 3 1/2 cups soaked and cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed ((1 1/2 cups dry) OR 2 cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans (15 oz. each))
- 2 tbsp water
- 3 cups spinach or baby kale, tightly packed (5 ounces)
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp roasted salted sunflower seeds (optional topping)
- Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium till hot but not smoking. Place the mushroom slices into the pan. Let them fry undisturbed for 3 minutes.
- Stir and continue frying till the mushrooms are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Add the red pepper flakes, basil, and paprika. If spice sensitive, start with just 1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper-- you can always add more to taste later. I like it with a kick, so I add 1/2 tsp. Stir seasonings to coat the mushrooms. Add the garlic last. Stir and cook for 1 minute till fragrant.
- Stir in the chickpeas till all ingredients are well combined. Let the chickpeas heat up for 2 minutes, stirring as they warm.
- Pour 2 tbsp water into the bean and mushroom mixture and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, place the fresh spinach or baby kale over the top of the chickpeas. It will seem like a lot of greens at first, but they will shrink up a lot as they cook.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Cover the pan and allow spinach to cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until wilted. Stir the spinach into the chickpeas and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I usually use about 1/4 tsp of salt and a large pinch of pepper). Turn heat to medium and let the mixture continue to cook till excess liquid has evaporated.
- Sprinkle with roasted sunflower seeds (optional) and serve. I serve chili pepper flakes on the side for my family so they can spice it more to taste, if desired.
Other Great Recipe Ideas
The Pioneer Woman: Pan Seared Mushrooms
Tasty Kitchen: Grilled Chili Garlic Mushrooms
Weelicious: Mushroom Barley
Recipe Girl: Mushroom and Parmigiano Bruschetta