Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cheesy Mushroom-and-Rice-Stuffed Kale in Roasted-Butternut Sauce

The warm, rich cheesy goodness, savory flavors, and soft textures of this vegetarian dinner make it a welcomed dish on a cold, autumn evening. Besides taste, this is one nutrition-packed meal with lacinato kale, butternut squash, earthy mushrooms, and creamy arborio rice.

Lacinato, or Tuscan, kale has long, semi-flat leaves that are easy to wrap around a filling. There’s no need to blanch the leaves first—they’ll cook perfectly in a little broth in the oven after they’re stuffed and rolled.

Lacinato Kale
Tips on stuffing it: If your leaves are exceptionally long (as mine were this time), cut off a few inches of the narrowest bottom part so that the remaining leaf is relatively equal in width. The center rib toward the bottom will likely still be too thick for rolling, so run a sharp knife along each side of the portion you want to remove, then snap it out. This will leave the bottom part of the leaf split in two, but simply pull those two sides together (slightly overlapping) before placing any filling on it.

Remove Narrow End
Remove Thick Center Rib
Pull the Ends Together before Adding Filling
One more stuffing tip: Sometimes you're not sure how much filling to use in the first leaf (or pasta shell) in order to have the same amount remaining for the last one. I find it helpful to divide the filling into quarters, then, in this case, use half of each quarter for one leaf:

Quartered Filling
I used arborio rice (the favorite in risotto recipes) because its short grains cook up nice and sticky without becoming mushy. That stickiness is good for holding a filling together when there’s no fat from meat juices to do the job. If you don’t have arborio, use another short-grain, white rice.

Arborio Rice
Fresh mozzarella is not only mild and creamy, but it’s the consummate melting cheese. Fresh balls are easy to find in most markets, whether wrapped tightly in plastic or packed in a container with brine water.

Finally, the sauce: Squash says autumn, and butternut’s sweet, nutty flavor and creamy texture when cooked make it a delicious (and easy) choice to turn into a sauce. Roasting it first brings out a warm, caramel flavor that deepens the richness of the finished dish—and it takes very little time.

Serves 4


For the Sauce
  • 3 cups small-cubed butternut squash (from about a 2-lb squash)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup vegetable stock or broth
Cubed Butternut Squash
For the Stuffed Kale
  • olive oil for oiling dish, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups cooked arborio rice (or other short-grain white rice)
  • 8 large lacinato kale leaves, narrow ends and thick center rib removed
  • 16 thin slices fresh mozzarella (7-8 oz total)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Garlic, Shallot, and Mushrooms
Mozzarella Slices

For the Sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the squash cubes in a large bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  3. Spread the squash on the baking sheet and roast until tender and lightly browned, stirring once or twice, 20-25 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350° F.
Squash Ready to Roast
Roasted Squash
  1. Place the roasted squash in a food processor and add the butter. Pulse a few times to blend.
  2. Add the broth 1/2 cup at a time and process until the mixture is creamy and slightly thin. (The consistency of the sauce should be about the same as canned tomato sauce.)
Butter Added 
Squash and Butter Blended
Vegetable Broth Blended In
  1. Pour the sauce into a pan and re-warm while the kale rolls (recipe follows) bake. Re-season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Sauce Warming
For the Stuffed Kale
  1. Generously oil an 11 X 7-inch baking dish.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 7 minutes.
  3. Stir in the mint and parsley and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the vegetables are tender, 2 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked rice.
Mushroom Mixture Beginning to Cook
Mushrooms and Herbs
Mushroom-Rice Mixture
  1. Lay a prepared kale leaf on a work surface. Place 2 slices of mozzarella on the bottom end.
  2. Spoon 1/8 of the mushroom-rice mixture (about 5 tablespoons) on top of the cheese, pressing down lightly with the back of a spoon.
  3. Roll up the leaf over the filling as tightly as you can without tearing the kale and tuck in the sides as you go. (It's okay if the sides aren't tucked in completely.) Repeat with the remaining kale leaves and mushroom mixture.
Cheese Layer
Mushroom Mixture Added 
Stuffed Kale Leaf
  1. Place the stuffed kale leaves seam-side down snugly in the prepared dish (6 side by side, 2 lengthwise).  Pour the broth in the dish and drizzle the kale rolls with lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Bake in the reduced-temperature oven until the kale is tender and the cheese has melted, 25 minutes.
Stuffed Kale
Stuffed Kale Ready to Bake 
Baked Kale
To serve, spoon a pool of roasted butternut sauce in the middle of 4 plates. Place 2 stuffed kale rolls on top of each and serve hot.

Cheesy Mushroom-and-Rice-Stuffed Kale in Roasted-Butternut Sauce

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