Nigel Slater is a food writer’s food writer. The prolific British author’s famously brief recipe introductions read like haikus: “Roasted pumpkin. Smooth, silky mash.” “Autumn mushrooms, ribbons of pasta, a breath of aniseed.” “Crisp pastry. Warm banana. The scent of maple syrup.” They remind me of Ruth Reichl’s much-satirized tweets.
He’s a cook’s cook, too, long advocating a seasonal, breezy approach in the kitchen that has endeared him to readers for decades. In Slater’s hands, few recipes seem daunting — and so many seem enticing.
Slater’s latest book is “Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter,” a celebration of simple vegetarian cooking for colder weather — or, as he writes so beautifully, when “our appetite is pricked by the sudden drop in temperature.” This time of year, “more food will come to the table in deep casseroles and pie dishes,” he writes. “I dig out my capacious ladle for a creamed celery root soup as soft as velvet. The temperature of the plates and bowls will change. We want to hold things that warm our hands, a sign of the happiness to come.”
I’ve stuffed plenty of portobello mushrooms in my time and wasn’t necessarily looking for another such recipe, but Slater’s drew me in anyhow. It’s not complicated: You mash chickpeas into a garlicky, lemony, hummus-esque paste, spread it on two upturned mushroom caps, press in more whole chickpeas (and a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds) and bake. The puree turns silky, and the mushrooms get pleasantly tender, while staying steak-like enough that you need a knife and fork.
The chickpeas fit neatly inside, making this quite possibly the only stuffed portobello mushroom dish I’ve ever had, let alone made, that I’d classify