Week 2 of Lent, and grilled portobello sandwiches have become a favorite lunch. It’s simple, nutritious, and gives a nice umami/meatiness to the day. The no land-meat, no dairy has been surprisingly tough. We knew going in that it would take a serious commitment, but we didn’t realize how much we would think about food constantly. Like corn, a surprising amount of food in the grocery store has milk or milk byproducts.
We’ve been craving odd things. I made a shrimp etouffee for dinner tonight, and though it was really good and filling, we both agreed simultaneously that it really needed andouille. I really miss earthy stuff like duck and lamb. Pepperoni. Tex-Mex cuisine in it’s entirety with all its cheesy goodness. The double cheeseburgers don’t seem to interest me as much. Christey has a more refined obsession of filet with blue cheese and bacon.
But, back to lunch! Portobello or portabella? Either, actually, it’s just masculine/feminine variants of a quasi-Latin description, and there’s even an ungrammatical version of portobella. They are actually the same species as criminis, and white button mushrooms. The white buttons (loved by French chefs and pizzerias alike) are the early stage of the fungus reproductive system, and brown criminis (or baby portobellos) are a variant. The crimini variant turns into the portobello — two to three days after the crimini-sized mushrooms form, they massively expand into portobellos.
Once the caps are opened, it’s common to remove the gills and the woodier parts of the stem (if not the whole stem).
I grilled the caps until they started to get soft. Like most mushrooms, portobellos are mostly water, and a lot of water will be released during the cooking.
Toppings are typical Italian-American — sliced tomato. Roasted red peppers, cut into strips. Basil chiffonade. Balsamic vinegar. Plus, a sprinking of kosher salt.
These are really tasty, but they’re definitely not burgers. They’re light — to the point where I need two of these for lunch. They don’t fill me up like a real burger, but then again, they don’t have the calories of a real burger. They have a fantastic, complex taste, and they’re probably a lot more nutritious than a frozen, pre-packaged veggie burger with an ingredient list a mile long.