Grilled Balsamic Portabello Mushroom Burgers

I really am not a huge mushroom fan so for years I have avoided any sort of burger with a giant mushroom in place of the meat. But when one of my sisters made a delicious marinade for mushrooms and grilled them, and they were really, really good, I thought maybe it was time to try a portabello (is it portabello or portabella?) burger. I used her marinade, another sister’s hamburger recipe, and a complete stranger’s bun recipe to make this.

If you are at all concerned about having to eat an enormous vegetable when what you really want is beef, please trust me, you will love it. It doesn’t feel like its missing meat, its not a chore to eat for you non veggie lovers. Its delicious. It is so juicy and wonderful, I could honestly eat these every day.

One important tip, when it comes to cleaning the mushrooms, do not just rinse them in water before attempting to remove the gills. I did this on my first try, the mushroom soaked up all the water and turned to mush in my hands as I tried to scrape off the gills. Instead, remove the gills with a spoon before washing them. To wash them, I used a wet paper towel and gently wiped them clean to keep the mushrooms from acting like a sponge and soaking up a ton of water.

Despite these tips, I still hate cleaning the mushrooms. I feel clumsy and like I am mutilating it. The gills are edible but will give the finished burger an ugly color. If there is a better way to clean and remove the gills, I would love to hear! But in the very end, after marinading in a dark marinade and then being grilled, they really don’t look like I did a terrible job cleaning them. But still, I am unhappy with how they look before they go in the ziplock bag, so I’d really love to hear from you if I am doing it wrong.

For the marinade:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 balsamic vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 1/3 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 tsp. pepper
  • 4 portabello mushrooms, cleaned and gills removed

Note my clumsy, half destroyed looking “cleaned” mushroom:

In a ziplock bag add all marinade ingredients. Shake to mix, add mushrooms, toss to coat, refrigerate for 4+ hours (can be marinated overnight.)

Heat grill and prepare toppings. For my burgers went with tomato, onion, asiago cheese, fresh basil, arugula, this aioli, and these buns.

Grill for about 8-10 minutes, 4-5 on each side. Don’t worry if it looks like it may be burned, it isn’t, the balsamic is very dark and the mushrooms has just absorbed all the color. Just don’t burn them for real and make a liar out of me!

Ready to go on the grill!

And the cheese getting all melty and perfect:

Lemon Garlic Aioli

I got this recipe from my sister. Every time I make it, I need to call her because I lost whatever scrap of paper I wrote it down on. Now, it will be on the internet forever and I’ll never need to ask again!

This is a really great dressing for hamburgers, which I believe it was designed for. I use it on my grilled portabella burgers, it is incredible. If you are not a gung ho garlic eater, maybe you should stick to 2 cloves instead of 3. As far as the raw egg, there is always a risk eating raw egg but its low.

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

In a food processor, add all but the olive oil.

Mix it all up til it looks something like this:

Then very, very slowly stream the olive oil into the mix, while running the food processor constantly until aioli is thick and creamy. Your end product should look like this:

Spicy Chicken Shawarma

I’m sure I have mentioned, I have 2 favorite magazines as a source of my most favorite recipes. One of them is Cooking Light, and that is where I found this little keeper.  The recipe calls for tahini which is a sesame seed paste and a staple in the Middle Eastern diet. You can find it at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and I have even heard Costco. Well, I don’t have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods near me and since the recipe only calls for 1 tablespoon, I am not sure what I’d do with a gallon of it from Costco. If you are in the same boat, you can try making your own but again, that is a lot of leftover tahini. Anyway, you can substitute with hummus which is what I did, or according to Alton Brown, peanut butter will do.

  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground ginger
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 5  tablespoons  plain Greek-style yogurt, divided
  • 2  tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  tablespoon  tahini
  • 4  pitas, halved
  • 1/2  cup  chopped cucumber
  • 1/2  cup  chopped tomato
  • 1/4  cup chopped red onion

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in 1 tablespoon yogurt, 1 tablespoon juice, and 2 garlic cloves. Add chicken; toss to coat.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken mixture to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until browned and done, stirring frequently.

While chicken cooks, combine remaining 1/4 cup yogurt, remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, remaining 1 garlic clove, and tahini, stirring well.

Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons tahini mixture inside each pita half; divide chicken evenly among pita halves. Fill each pita half with 1 tablespoon cucumber, 1 tablespoon tomato, and 1 1/2 teaspoons onion.

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

*Update* My little brother is serving in Afghanistan and a few months back he came home on leave. We decided to have a huge bash to celebrate his safe return and asked him what he wanted. Pork! They don’t get to eat a whole lot of that in the Middle East! So everyone made pork, something pork. I made this, but because of the time the party was, and not wanting to get up in the middle of the night to start cooking, I started the day before. It was way better. So, if you want to do it the short, still tastes good way, this unedited version will do. But try it my new way! Its much better. Now if I could only figure out a way to ship him a pot of it to enjoy before he gets home for good…


I have a very biased view on slow cookers. I hate them. I know there are people that swear up and down that they are the greatest thing since the microwave oven but I beg to differ. I have one, and have tried about 15 different slow cooker recipes and have hated almost every one of the mushy, soggy, under or over cooked disasters that resulted. I guess if you like to muddle your groceries they are great, but I am a food separatist and slow cookers go against every one of my taste bud’s beliefs. Until I found this recipe, that is.

  • 4 lb. shoulder pork roast give or take a half lb
  • any sort of dry rub
  • 3 onions (2 thinly sliced, one diced)
  • BBQ sauce, homemade or your favorite jar of store bought
  • 1.5 cups of water or beer
  • french rolls or hamburger buns

Put the dry rub on the pork. Thinly slice 2 of the onions, put one onion on the bottom of the crock pot, place in the pork shoulder, add the rest of the sliced onion.  add water or beer. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours*.

*Updated Version: Cover and cook on low for 12 hours.

When the 4 hours are up, strain pork and onions. Discard liquid. Pull pork from bone in large chunks, return meat and onions to crock pot.

Add BBQ sauce and the last onion, diced. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 more hours, stir occasionally and continue to pull the large chunks into bite sized pieces as the meat becomes more tender.*

*Updated version: Cover and cook on low for 2-4 more hours. Stir occasionally, but the large chunks will already be shredded because the meat will be much more tender. After the 2-4 hours, just keep it on warm until ready to serve.

Serve on hearty rolls or buns. Or you could go Mexican, serve with corn tortillas, beans and rice.*

*Updated version: Try on homemade buns and with fresh cole slaw!

Turkey Pesto on Focaccia

Here is one I did create myself. But, I cheat and use a few store-bought items when pressed for time. I first made this sandwich after trying to recreate a chicken pesto sandwich from Wolfgang Puck and I have to say, my sandwich kicks that sandwich’s butt. Ok, the 3 ingredients I buy pre-made are an Italian dressing, the focaccia bread (although I do have a wonderful focaccia and rosemary recipe that I will make one of these days, soon) and pesto. Pesto is really easy to make but the amount I need is more than my basil plant has to give right now and to buy that much basil is way more expensive than the $3 jar of pesto. Anyway, if you have the spare time, try making this from scratch, otherwise the 3 store bought ingredients still make it a great sandwich.

  • a loaf of focaccia
  • turkey
  • provolone
  • pine nuts
  • pesto
  • baby greens
  • Italian dressing
  • tomato

Start by slicing the loaf into sandwich size slices, and then cut the bread to make a top and bottom. Lay the pieces on a baking sheet and generously spread pesto over each piece.

Layer turkey on each piece, and then pine nuts. Then a slice of provolone on top of each. When the cheese melts, the pine nuts will be held on the sandwich if you remember to put them under the cheese. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter.

Then place the pan under the broiler until your cheese is bubbly and golden-wonderful. In the meantime, slice the tomatoes and toss the baby greens with the Italian dressing.

Then add the greens and tomatoes, then enjoy the best sandwich you have ever eaten in your life.