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Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Pesto, Mozzarella and Red Peppers and a great recipe for Walnut Spinach Pesto from Daniel Holzman

Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Pesto, Mozzarella and Red Peppers and a great recipe for Walnut Spinach Pesto from Daniel Holzman
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         I realize that Meatless Monday was yesterday but yesterday Andrew and I were busy getting back into our house after a week’s absence for the Hampton Classic Horse Show.  We had a wonderful week staying with dear friends who opened their doors to us.  Or at least me.  The first part of the week, I was solo at a wonderful 3 generations family home.  Andrew joined me for the second part of the week with two of our nearest and dearest.  I think having houseguests makes you a better houseguest. Or at least I hope so.  I did quite a bit of cooking and Andrew excelled at desserts.  I did not put today’s Portobello Mushroom Burgers on any menu this week but it would be a great item to keep in mind for this weekend’s final blast of summer–the Labor Day Weekend. 

         The Portobello is that meatiest of mushrooms, a bun-sized cap that, once you’ve scooped out the gills, is a perfect to fill with almost anything you fancy.  Here, I used jarred red peppers and mozzarella cheese in an all-vegetarian version.  And later, at a lunch I made just for Andrew and me, I added a slice of prosciutto that gave the burger a nice salty lift.    In shopping for this meal, I discovered that Portobellos are being packaged ideally for making this dish.  I bought a package of four. 

         When we cook burgers here, increasingly we don’t just stick to ground beef.  Instead, we let our guests choose between chicken burgers, turkey burgers and beef burgers.  The Portobello can now join that burger parade and keep absolutely everyone happy.  The one thing burgers in our house have in common is the English Muffin.  Now I know that the soft burger bun is the choice of many.  What we like about the English muffin is that those fabled ‘nooks and crannies’ are ideal for soaking up the burger’s ‘juice’ and for being sturdy enough to handle the Portobello, which otherwise would likely slide into your lap.  For any of the other hamburgers, the regular size works fine. For the Portobello, choose the large ‘sandwich’ size English Muffin.  This is simplicity itself to cook whether in a grill pan or on the Weber. 
         A word about the pesto. The city of Genoa is the birthplace of the sauce which is traditionally made of crushed garlicbasil, and pinoli or pine nuts with olive oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  The name pesto comes from the act of crushing these ingredients using a mortar and pestle.  With the arrival of the food processor, the mortar and pestle took a back seat and seemingly endless varieties of pesto made their appearance.  There’s red pesto made of sun-dried tomatoes or red peppers or both.  Cilantro pesto which puts a little Latin on the table.  The recipe I am sharing with you today comes from a man named Daniel Holzman who is a co-owner of The Meatball Shop which is so wildly popular it now has six New York City locations – two in Greenwich Village (at 64 Greenwich St. and 170 Bedford St.), the original on the Lower East Side at 84 Stanton Street, one in Chelsea at 200 Ninth Avenue and most recently, one of the Upper West Side at 477 Amsterdam Ave. (See our earlier post: https://chewingthefat.us.com/2014/01/the-meatball-shops-spicy-pork-meatballs.html
         Daniel’s pesto eschews pine nuts and instead uses walnuts which are infinitely less expensive and which he prefers because of their flavor, crunch and texture. He uses both baby spinach and basil. And there’s no garlic, either cooked or raw.  Finally, he tells us you can swap out the spinach for arugula.  All in all, it’s a great mild pesto with that keeps well in the fridge for a week and in the freezer for three months.  Here are the recipes, first for the pesto, then for the Portobello Burgers:

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