This is the menu to make when you suddenly have guests coming by for lunch or brunch. It’s light, complete and most of all, friendly. Friendly to you because you can adapt it to what you have in your pantry and to your guests’ diets. Don’t have sweet potatoes? Use potatoes. Don’t have dill? Use another herb. Don’t have any herbs, you can do without, really. Need to make it vegan? Substitute more oil for of the butter and omit the yogurt. Need to make it gluten-free? It IS gluten-free! I know. Pretty adaptable. And it’s a short grocery list too, if you did want to rush out and grab anything you don’t have. Also, the kitchen time is about an hour start to finish which is all I’d recommend for a meal involving the conditions “sudden” or “lunch” anyway. So go to it.
Notice I don’t mention what wine to serve here because your surprise, gluten-free, vegan guests must be bringing something good to drink. They’re already treading on paper-thin ice.
The Menu: A Light Lunch of Stuffed Sweet Potatoes + Easy Mushroom Soup
2 medium sweet potatoes
12 oz dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed well in cold water of any grit
1 tsp + 1 tbs unsalted butter, separated
1 lb crimini mushrooms, trimmed
1 tsp + 1 tbs Extra-virgin olive oil, separated
1 shallot, peeled
Ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved lengthwise
1/2 c dry white wine
3 c low-sodium vegetable broth
1 large sprig fresh dill or thyme
1/4 c greek yogurt or strained yogurt
4 tsp pesto (homemade or store-bought)
2 tbs toasted pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 400°. Place sweet potatoes on a foil or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Prick them here and there with a fork and roast for an hour.
Meanwhile start the mushroom soup. Soak porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of boiling water. Finely slice the shallot, onion and mushrooms, keeping all separate.
Heat a teaspoon of butter in a small skillet or saucepan and once melted, add a small handful of sliced mushrooms and toss quickly to coat. Turn the heat up and stir-fry for 10 seconds, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook, allowing the mushrooms to release their moisture and start to brown, stirring occasionally. After their moisture is gone, lower the heat and add a teaspoon of oil and the shallot. Stir to coat well and season with salt and pepper. Fry until the shallots are crispy and the mushrooms are golden, stirring frequently so that they don’t burn (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat a tablespoon each of butter and oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Allow them to release their liquid and allow it to boil away and cook for a couple of minutes past that so that the mushrooms and onions caramelize a little–this may take 10-15 minutes, stirring occastionally. Then add the wine and stir, scraping any parts at the bottom that have stuck. Once most of the wine has cooked off, add the porcinis and their liquid slowly, being careful to leave behind any grit that has settled to the bottom. Add the broth, dill and a generous pinch or two of black pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat slightly, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, discard dill and cool for 5 minutes. Puree soup using an immersion blender or food processor. It should be a thick soup but if you prefer less liquid, return to the heat and simmer uncover for 5-10 more minutes.
When the sweet potatoes are done, let them cool slightly and then halve lengthwise. Scoop out flesh carefully and not too close to the skin which is delicate and can tear, and transfer to a bowl, reserving the skins. Add the butter and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the flesh and then whip with a whisk. Spoon the filling loosely back into the skins. Top the filling evenly with a dollop of yogurt, drizzle pesto over top and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the reserved fried mushrooms and shallots and serve.
Serves 3-4 as a light lunch–round it out with olives, crackers and cheese and you’re laughing.
Oh and it’s good practice to make this cookie dough ahead, roll and freeze so you can have them on hand to bake them in a pre-heated oven (yours would still be hot if you made this meal), while you’re clearing plates. I do not have you covered on the gluten-free, vegan front for dessert, but @canice and @saraberneche totally do with these options. Plus maybe your guests brought that too? They are totally forgiven for all if they did.