This appetizer includes a combination of tofu, tahini and nutritional yeast for a vegan “cheese” that fills the mushrooms. Be sure to use a creamy variety of tahini (sesame paste) if you can find it. If not, mix the tahini in a small bowl with a bit of olive or sesame oil to thin it out. For variety, add a teaspoon of fresh, minced rosemary or sage, or replace the basil with cilantro, Italian parsley, dill or other herbs of your choosing.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Combine the lemon juice, water, and 1 tablespoon of tamari in an 8-inch-square casserole dish and stir well. Place the mushrooms in the casserole and let sit while you prepare the filling, flipping occasionally.
Place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tofu and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the nutritional yeast, tahini, spinach, basil, salt, black pepper, red pepper and optional tamari (if using), stirring well to evenly distribute the spinach. Remove from the heat.
Fill the mushroom caps with the filling—it will mound over the mushrooms—and bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm.
*To chiffonade is to cut into narrow strips. Stack the basil leaves, roll them tightly, and then slice into thin strips with a sharp knife.
Spinach-Stuffed Roast Tomatoes: Instead of mushrooms, use the filling in tomatoes. Slice off the top and scoop out the inside of 6 small to medium tomatoes and follow the instructions above.
Spinach-Stuffed Zucchini Roulades: Slice 1 medium zucchini in 1/4-inch-thick strips. Place on a well-oiled baking sheet; lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 375°F oven until the zucchini is just soft, approximately 15 minutes. Place a large spoonful of filling at the bottom of each slice and roll it up. Return to the oven for 5 more minutes before serving.
Spinach-Stuffed Eggplant Roulades: Follow the recipe for Variation 2, using a medium unpeeled eggplant.
Indian Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms: Follow the basic recipe, adding 1½ teaspoons of curry powder and ½ teaspoon of ground cumin; replace basil with cilantro.
Mexican Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms: Follow the basic recipe, adding 1½ teaspoons of chili powder and ½ teaspoon of ground cumin; replace basil with cilantro.
Italian Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms: Follow the basic recipe, adding 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped Italian parsley, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, and ½ teaspoon of dried thyme.
Spinach-Stuffed Mushrooms with Pine Nuts: Follow the basic recipe. After the mushrooms come out of the oven, top each with a few toasted pine nuts.