It’s been almost three weeks since I ate my last bite of chicken, part of a slimy grilled piece on a sandwich from a rest-stop Roy Rogers. I knew at the time that it would be my last for ten days (see the 10-Day Challenge), but I had no intention of going any longer than that without meat. Believe me, if I had known that I’d be going pescetarian for good, my last meal would not have been rest-stop roadkill. I would have planned a Fat Tuesday of my own, a day of indulgence in all things animal. And on the dinner plate at my “last supper” would not have been a steak, but rather a bistro burger, the non-vegetarian version of the recipe I’m posting today. In fact, when Erin and I were still considering a pescetarian or vegetarian diet, we listed this as one of the meals we’d miss the most.
But alas, all is not lost. Let’s be honest, nothing is going to replace a burger in terms of taste, but there are all kinds of options for vegetarian grilling that might come close, with nobody being slaughtered in the process. I’m still scared to try Boca Burgers, so for my first attempt at tweaking one of my favorite meals I went with something that I knew would work and that I eat a lot anyway: grilled portobello mushrooms. If you haven’t grilled yourself a portobello yet, you need to try. They take on a hearty, beefy quality that makes them the perfect center of a vegetarian meal.
So with that, I give you the recipe. It’s actually an adaptation of a Rachael Ray recipe, but I don’t think I’ll be violating any copyright laws by making a few changes and sharing it here. So get your EVOO ready, because this one will be finished before you can say “Yummo!” Actually it won’t; how ironic it is that the first meal I need to warn you about taking a little while is one of Rachael’s. I love most of her recipes, but calling them 30-Minute Meals is flat-out chicanery. This one took me about 45 minutes; maybe you can do it faster if you really hurry.
Grilled Portobello Burgers Recipe
Ingredients (for 4 big servings):
- 8 medium portobello caps
- canola oil (sorry Rachael, no EVOO in the No Meat Athlete version)
- 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 4 tbsp vinegar (sherry vinegar is best, but expensive)
- thyme, either 2 tsp dried or 2 tbsp fresh
- 2 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 4 thick slices of rustic whole-wheat bread, cut from a loaf
- 1 8.25-oz can of beets, drained and cut into sticks
- 4 big handfuls arugula (you can substitute baby spinach)
- a few crumbles of goat cheese (optional)
- salt and pepper
Heat 2 tsbp of canola oil in a pan over medium-high heat, then add shallots, season with salt and pepper, and stir frequently. After they are slighly brown, add 2 tbsp vinegar and cook for another minute. Remove from heat.
Preheat your grill to high. Mix thyme, Worcestershire, and dijon in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then dip the top of each portobello cap into the mixture. It has a lot of flavor, so you don’t need to really coat the mushrooms in it. Place the mushrooms top-side down on the grill. Grill for 3 minutes or until they are well-marked by the grill, flip and grill for another 3 minutes or so. Just watch them carefully so they don’t burn.
Drizzle some oil on both sides of the bread and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 1-2 minutes per side, again looking for marks but not letting them burn.
Wrap mushrooms and bread in foil and mix beets with arugula in a large bowl. Add 2 tbsp canola, 2 tbsp vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss to coat, adding goat cheese if using it.
Put salad on plates, top each with bread, 2 mushrooms, and carmelized shallots. Eat and pretend it’s a burger!
So there you have it. Another healthy vegetarian meal fit for marathon training. Lots of vegetables, healthy fats, and whole grains. True, it’s not packed with protein, but recently I’ve read a lot that has started to convince me that we really don’t need nearly as much protein as we’ve grown up believing. Here’s a link to a blog post by a health and fitness coach providing some evidence that too much protein may actually be harming our bodies! So where did the idea that we need all this protein come from? Most of it is due to that great farce of reductionist nutrition science known as the “Four Food Groups,” an idea which has been pretty much discredited by now. More pressure to eat protein comes from the beef and dairy industries, who advertise on television and billboards and lobby to make sure that government nutrition guidelines still recommend copious amounts of protein. If you think I’m getting all conspiracy-theory on you, do a little research on it. Again I’ll recommend In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, or any of the new wave of “conscious-eating” books. I know this is completely anecdotal, but look at gorillas. A huge, powerful animal with genetic makeup very similar to ours, and a whopping three percent of their diet is non-vegetarian, in the form of termites and caterpillars! I’m not saying “stop eating protein,” but certainly a smoothie in the morning and fish once a week should provide more than enough as part of a balanced diet, even for endurance athletes like marathoners or triathletes.
I’ll leave you with that to think about. On a much lighter note, watch the video of me attempting to give a cooking demonstration in my last post if you haven’t yet. Oh, and I almost forgot. 4 cows out of 5. We love this one, even if it’s not quite a burger.