I ate my last beef burger when I was twelve-years-old. The mood was ripe for enjoyment, which is to say it was summertime and I was mosquito-bitten and sweaty after a raucous game of capture the flag at my friend Katherine’s house. I’m sure I had skinned knees and I’m sure my training bra was unwashed, in case you needed a more complete picture of a barely teenaged girl in her bliss. But one bite into that burger and I decided I was done. I didn’t like burgers. Why was I eating one?
For all the other stuff involved, of course.
Sometimes a girl just wants a sandwich that includes a crunch of pickle and a slab of melty cheese, a bite of red onion, and a bed of greens. Cover it in mayonnaise or mustard, or preferably both. If there’s ketchup to be had, I want that, too. And don’t forget about the bun. It should be soft and pillowy. (Do not give me a burger on an English muffin, in other words.)
Since that fateful summer day, I’ve eaten a lot of veggie burgers. I’ve eaten the kind that masquerade as meat and can be found in the frozen food aisle. I’ve made my own from chopped up grains and veggies and beans. I’ve eaten more than my share of the ones served by a certain establishment that also serves crinkle fries and milkshakes. I’ve enjoyed some of the very best that New York City has to offer. I’m still waiting for someone to take me on date to eat this other one that costs a small fortune.
Lately, I’ve been taking the absolute simplest veggie burger route possible and making weekly portabello burgers at home. We get our mushrooms from the mushroom farmers at the local greenmarket and they’re always delicious and a fraction of the cost of the caps you’ll find shrink-wrapped in plastic at the grocery store.
Before I go on, I’ll pause to say what some of you are thinking and admit that a portobello mushroom burger can be a bit like the Caprese salad of vegetarian sandwich options: truly delicious when done right and disappointing when not. A flavorful marinade will make your mushrooms sing, none at all will make them go rubbery. Don’t let that happen.
Here’s a recipe whipped together nearly as quickly as this weekend lunch is gobbled. Marinated in a base of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, they sizzle satisfyingly on a grill or cast iron skillet and they’re toothsome and hearty enough to stand up to the requisite toppings. Depending on the size of the ‘bellas that you find (we’re on a nickname basis), you might want to do two mushrooms per burger. The toppings are up to you, but please don’t disappoint me by choosing a lackluster bun. (For local folks, Stinky Brooklyn has the truly delicious brioche buns shown here, but I’m also partial to the seeded buns at Caputo’s.)
What you need:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Condiments of your choice
What you need to do:
+ Remove the mushroom stems and clean the caps of any debris. (I sometimes scrape some of the gills with a spoon, I sometimes don’t. I’m not sure it makes much of a difference.)
+ Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic. Pour mixture over the mushroom caps and toss. Set aside for twenty-minutes, or longer if you’d like to do this step in advance.
+ Place the marinated mushroom caps rounded side down on a hot grill or cast iron pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook for ~6 minutes until they begin to get juicy. Flip them over and cook for another ~6 minutes. If you’re a cheeseburger kind of person, melt a slice of cheese on top before taking off the pan. (I used Manchego here because we had it, but just about anything you love will work.)
+ Serve on a toasted bun with lots and lots of toppings.
If you’re hankering for other summery treats, might I suggest a plum shrub, or a roasted peach popsicle, or a tomato galette? What’s good on your summertime menu?
This is exactly how my husband and I enjoy mushroom burgers! May I recommend an avocado slice or two on your burger?
That looks delicious, and you are making me feel hungry. We will be trying this one soon. Thanks Erin.
Looks amazing! And agreed, I love burgers for the veggies really.
We’re trying to go meatless most dinners in my house these days. Being creative can be tough when cooking for a meat-eating Texas native dude. Thanks for the yummy inspiration!
This looks so great. How do you navigate being vegetarian with a husband who eats meat? Do you keep it in the house?
Side note, would one day love to read a post about your shoe-free home. I’ve been dying to do it but then the minute people come over I’m too afraid to ask. Does it work even during gatherings?
Hi! James eats very little meat and so we just never cook it at home! It’s not a hard and fast rule, just something we don’t do! As for shoes: we keep an enamel bucket outside our apartment door were we leave some of our shoes, so folks see that and typically just remove their shoes. It’s a pretty common city thing, so people don’t usually balk! That said, once in a while people leave their shoes on! That’s okay, too!
Hi Erin! This looks delicious (I too am a vegetarian who ate my last burger around to age of 12). I am sure you already have another book in the pipeline, but may I suggest a collection of your recipes and other “simple” tactics for kitchen, picnics, meal prep, and all things food related. I think it would be great 🙂
Re: shoe-free. Just move to Canada! So weird that shoes are left on south of the border 😉
When there’s a baby crawling around on the floor, I think shoe-free is an essential. (imho)
I’m looking forward to trying this recipe with a slice of cheese and some homemade mayo or aioli on top. Last night’s vege burger was at a restaurant and was made from white beans, quinoa and “studded” with flax and sunflower seeds. The best part was that instead of a bun, one could opt to have it served on a polenta cake, which provided a layer of luscious, buttery crispness. I think I’m going to try that trick at home.
We are loving a very simple dessert during triple-digit heat in California — we freeze thin slices of banana (for a couple hours) and then use a small food processor to whip the slices into a kind of “ice cream”. It isn’t instant, one has to keep pushing down the mixture between whirlings, but at some point (magically) it turns into a lovely whipped-delight. Add berries, chocolate chips, etc. Thanks for allowing us to share! Love your blog!
This sounds delicious! I’m very partial to a beans-and-grains veggie burger myself. Still looking for the perfect version to make at home. My favorite summertime thing lately has been raspberry- peach-lemon popsicles. Or sometimes we use the same mix of fruit to make sorbet and that’s pretty awesome. Summer foods are (currently) my favorite.
I had a mushroom kicking around my fridge so tried it there and then and it was delicious! Thank you for passing on the recipe.
Mmmm, headed out to the fields to pick peaches today to grill with a ‘bella. Summer bliss time here in Portland, Oregon. Thanks for the inspiration!
Thanks for this! We have already made it twice and it will now be part of our weeknight dinner list which is way, way to short. Quick follow-up question though. How do you sautee the mushrooms in the pan? In olive oil or in the leftover marinade? And almost more importantly, I would love more quick weeknight recipe ideas! Thanks.
Either way works!
Wow! I’m a vegan for 2 years and a half and reguralry make burgers with falafel – it’s strange but I’ve never thought of using mushrooms before ) Thanks for the great idea! Will try the recipe in the next burger-evening 😉
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