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.
Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Pesto, Mozzarella and Red Peppers and a great recipe for Walnut Spinach Pesto from Daniel Holzman
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.
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 garlic, basil, 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: http://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:
Recipe for Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow’s Spinach-Basil Pesto from The Meatball Shop Cookbook (Ballantine Books 2011)
Makes 4 cups
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Fill a large stockpot three-quarters full with water and bring to a boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, spread out the walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 12 minutes, giving them a shake after 6 minutes. Continue roasting until golden brown and toasted. Set aside and allow to cool thoroughly.
Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water, and set it close to the sink.
Dump the spinach and basil into the boiling water and stir. After 1 minute, strain the greens, and plunge them into the bowl with ice water. Drain the greens again and squeeze them tightly to get as much water out as possible. Chop the greens roughly.
Combine the greens and walnuts with the salt, olive oil, and Parmesan in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.
Recipe for Portobello Burgers with Pesto, Mozzarella and Red Peppers with (optional) Prosciutto
Makes 4 Burgers:
1/2 cup Spinach-Basil pesto
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 large English Muffins split horizontally
4 portobello mushrooms, stemmed, dark gills scraped out
Roasted red peppers from jar, drained
4 cups arugula (about 2 ounces)
1 cup grated mozzarella
Stir pesto and mayonnaise in small bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare barbecue or grill pan (medium-high heat).
Brush mushrooms on both sides with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill, rounded side up, 4 minutes. Turn mushrooms over. Put the red peppers in the bowl of the mushroom, add prosciutto if using, cover with grated Mozzarella Cheese.
Cover and grill until mushrooms are tender, about 4 minutes.
Toast rolls, cut side down, if using a grill. Or lightly toast in a toaster oven. Transfer to plates. Spread grilled side of rolls with pesto mayonnaise.
Place 1 mushroom on each roll bottom. Top each with arugula and Press roll tops over and serve.