Portobello “Cheesesteak” Sandwiches

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I have never been to Philadelphia and I know nothing about what constitutes a true Philly cheesesteak. I do know that I absolutely love my creation of a vegetarian cheesesteak, whether or not it approximates the authentic Philly style version.

This sandwich is So. Savory. So cheesy. So rich and flavorful! The portobellos are sauteed in butter with a little bit of soy sauce to give them that meaty, savory element. The cheese sauce is a combination of sharp cheddar and cream cheese, so it has a nice tang to it. Sauteed peppers and onions give you that sweet veggie flavor to balance out all that richness. Oh, and the whole thing is nestled within an herbed garlic butter baguette. Oh yes, you read that right. This sandwich is a vegetarian dream.

You’re going to want to know that this is not exactly a light sandwich. My favorite way to cook mushrooms is in an ample amount of butter. And then there is garlic butter on the bread. And then there is a creamy cheese sauce drenched over everything. But hey, a cheesesteak isn’t exactly health food. It’s an indulgent sandwich that makes you feel like you’re eating fast food. But it’s so much better when it’s homemade!

I’m going to shamefully admit that I did not get a lot of good pictures for this post. The reason being that I hadn’t had breakfast and was dreaming up how I was going to make these sandwiches all morning. When lunch finally rolled around, I was so hungry and my mouth was watering by the time they were done and well… I just didn’t last very long through the photo shoot. This just means you are going to have to try these out yourself to really get a good idea of what they taste like.

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Portobello Cheesesteaks

Serves 4 

Ingredients:

1 baguette loaf (for this sandwich a slightly softer loaf is preferred)

4 large portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 Tablespoon olive oil

10 Tablespoons butter, divided (4 Tablespoons need to be room temperature)

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated

2 oz cream cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and cook until they start to get some color and are completely soft, about 6-8 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Divide the baguette into 4 segments. Cut open each segment like a book (not cutting all the way through).
  4. Combine the softened 4 Tablespoons butter with the minced garlic, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Spread the butter mixture inside each baguette segment. Place the segments on a cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.
  5. In a medium skillet over high heat, melt 4 Tablespoons of butter. Add the sliced portobellos in an even layer and do NOT stir. Allow them to get some nice color on one side before stirring them around. When they have sat in the hot butter for 3-4 minutes, stir and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes. If the skillet starts to look dry, drizzle in olive oil as needed. When the mushrooms are almost done, add in the 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce and freshly cracked pepper. Stir, turn off the heat, and set aside.
  6. To make the cheese sauce: in a small pot, melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the 2 Tablespoons of flour and cook for 2 minutes, or until the flour and butter are nicely incorporated. Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to whisk until the mixture is nice and thick, about 5 minutes. When the mixture has thickened, turn off the heat, add in the cheddar and cream cheese, and stir until cheese is completely melted.
  7. To assemble the sandwiches, divide the pepper and onion mixture as well as the sauteed mushrooms evenly between each baguette segment. Smother each sandwich with desired amount of cheese sauce.

Veggie Burgers with Gouda Cheese & Calabrian Chile Mayo

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Full disclosure: This recipe is purely a combination of things I had in  my fridge and  pantry. My parents were making burgers last weekend and of course I wanted to explore a vegetarian option. I ventured into the kitchen while Eric was playing cards with some of our friends. Being the sweetheart he is, Eric has taken the role of my recipe scribe now. I proceed to shout ingredients from the kitchen to wherever he is in the house and he keeps track of everything I’m using and the proper measurements so I can focus on the food without having to stop and write it all down.

It started out simple:

Eric, write down one can of chickpeas and one can of cannelini beans. 

Ok, now a green bell pepper. Sauteed with 1/4 cup onion and 2 cloves of garlic.

5 sage leaves. Cumin. chile flakes. Seasoned breadcrumbs.

Now we’re getting interesting! I have to admit that some of the inspiration for this burger came from this recipe, which I had made dozens of times before. But I wanted a good burger sauce, and I wanted something fairly simple to throw together. So I raided the fridge and viola! My original veggie burger is born.

I love using white beans for the burger because I have grown tired of black bean burgers. The combination of chickpeas and cannelini beans is somewhat unexpected, and it happens to go very well with the spicy calabrian chile mayo sauce. The Gouda cheese was originally not what I wanted on the burger, but it was all we had. However, I was pleasantly surprised! This burger has some unique ingredients, and they really do work well together.  Now, this is not a patty that is super firm and imitates the texture of real meat. It’s a fairly soft patty, but I crisp it up in olive oil to get a nice crust on it. With all the toppings and the amazing burger sauce, it really makes a great summer vegetarian meal. I love veggie burgers because they feel like you’re eating junk food, but they are really so healthy and they are loaded with great fiber and nutrients!

While everyone else that night was eating regular hamburgers for dinner, they were all commenting that my veggie burgers smelled amazing– and they were. Everyone tried some and was pleased with the crispy, aromatic patties. On a perfectly toasted brioche bun with a spicy mayo, they just can’t be beat!

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Veggie Burgers with Gouda Cheese & Calabrian Chile Mayo

Makes 6 patties

Ingredients:

For the veggie burgers– 

1 (15 oz) can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 green bell pepper, finely diced

1/3 cup finely diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chile flakes

1/2 teaspoon cumin

5 leaves fresh sage, chopped

1 Tablespoon flour

1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2/3 cup oatmeal

1 egg

Brioche buns, slices of Gouda cheese, shredded lettuce, thin slices of onion, & garden tomatoes, for serving

For the Calabrian chile mayo– 

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon Calabrian chiles (packed in oil)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon grated onion

1/2 teaspoon ketchup

1 Tablespoon sweet relish

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

Directions:

  1. In a medium skillet, saute the bell pepper, onion, and garlic with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the veggies are softened and fragrant. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Place the drained beans in a large bowl. Using a masher or large fork, break down the beans until they are mostly smooth. Some texture is okay, but you don’t want huge pieces of bean throughout the mixture. Add in the cooked veggie mixture, cumin, sage, and chile flakes. Season with additional salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Add in the flour, oatmeal, bread crumbs, and egg. Stir to combine.
  4. Using your hands, form 6 patties from the bean mixture. Set on a plate and freeze for 30 minutes.
  5. To make the spicy mayo, combine the mayonnaise, calabrian chiles, garlic, onion, ketchup, relish, and celery salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  6. Fry the patties in batches in a medium skillet with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Fry for 3-5 minutes per side, until a golden brown crust forms on both sides. Place thin slices of Gouda cheese over each patty while they are still hot.
  7. Place the calabrian chile mayo on both sides of each brioche bun. Lay thin slices of onion on the bottom bun, and top with the veggie patty. Top each patty with fresh tomatoes and shredded lettuce.
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Caprese Grilled Cheese

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When I have bread in the house I need to use up, grilled cheese is generally my go-to. It’s so easy to make and so satisfying! Sometimes all you want is some toasty bread and ooey, gooey cheese. It’s such a simple meal, but it’s very easy to add a few snazzy ingredients and take it to a whole new level. I came up with this recipe when I really wanted grilled cheese but I wanted to elevate it a little bit.

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Fair warning: This grilled cheese sandwich is pretty damn classy. The way all of the flavors meld together in your mouth is like a symphony. What is not classy, however, is how you will look when you’re eating it. Prepare to have garlic butter and balsamic vinegar running down your hands to your elbows and cheese oozing onto your chin. You might even have to break sandwich law and bust out a fork and knife to finish this bad boy off. Hey, I’m not saying I stooped to that level of sandwich eating…but it’s safe to say that when you eat this, you’re in for a messy affair. You can impress a date by making them this glorious sandwich, but it’s more of a third date kind of sandwich. You get my point?

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They are certainly messy to eat, but they are actually super easy to throw together and the nice part is that you bake them off in the oven so you don’t even have to worry about flipping them in a pan. Score! I think my favorite part about these sandwiches is the garlic butter. We all know and love buttery grilled cheese. But throw in some garlic & herbs, and oh my is it scrumptious! Then you’ve got these lovely blistered tomatoes, like little jewels of sweetness that burst in your mouth with every bite. The heaping amount of basil on each sandwich perfectly balances out all that rich cheese. The sweet and sticky balsamic reduction provides another touch of sweetness and helps round out all of the flavors. I think the hilarious thing about these sandwiches is that you feel all grown-up eating such a fancy grilled cheese, but in the end you’re wiping your face and hands with a wet napkin like a little kid. However, some of the best moments in life are when you feel like a kid again. So make this grilled cheese and enjoy every messy bite of it.

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Caprese Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 slices of crusty farmer’s bread

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp crushed red pepper

½ cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the slices of bread on a cookie sheet.
  2. Add the garlic, oregano, dried basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper flakes to the melted butter.
  3. Brush the garlic butter onto each slice of bread. Divide the mozzarella and parmesan evenly between all 4 slices, making sure the surface of each slice is covered with cheese.
  4. Bake the cheesy bread slices in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and bubbly.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes and sautee for 2-3 minutes, or until they begin to blister and burst open. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  6. In another small skillet, heat the balsamic vinegar over medium heat until reduced by half (this should only take 3-4 minutes). It should thicken significantly. Set aside.
  7. When the breads come out of the oven, place a few cherry tomatoes on what will be the bottom slice of each sandwich. Finish with balsamic reduction and the chopped fresh basil. Complete the sandwich by placing the remaining cheesy slices on top of the slices with the tomatoes, balsamic, and basil.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, & Gruyere Toasts

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Remember when I said that German wine didn’t get enough recognition? When it comes to Alpine cooking, I feel the same way about mushrooms. When you think German food, usually the first thing that comes to mind is sausage. Germany certainly has some great sausages, but some of my favorite things to eat over there are the mushrooms. The ubiquitous German Pfifferlinge mushrooms are technically the same as the chanterelle mushrooms that we have here, but they are smaller and have a lot more flavor. I have always had a very hard time preparing mushrooms in the same fashion that you find them in Germany. Until now!

I discovered a great local mushroom supplier at the Greenville farmer’s market. Mushroom Mountain has some of the best mushrooms I have been able to find in the area. Some of my favorite mushrooms they have are the shimeji mushrooms. They are very small, so you can cook them whole and they have a perfectly tender texture.

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Despite the fact that shimeji mushrooms originate in East Asia, The flavors in this mushroom toast make me feel like I’m sitting on a mountaintop in the Alps. Paired with a crisp white wine, this toast is a perfect lunch or light dinner.

I’ve met a lot of people who don’t like mushrooms. That’s totally fine, but I’m convinced that at least 50% of these people have not had mushrooms prepared the right way (Eric used to be one of these people—I have since converted him to become a mushroom lover 😉 ). All too often people cook mushrooms over low heat with barely any fat and stir them way too often, until they become a rubbery, watery mess. The way I cook these mushrooms, you get a nice golden brown crisp on the outside but a tender inside. Combine these mushrooms with beautifully caramelized onions, and the result is a buttery, mouth-watering mixture that would already be perfect on top of a good piece of toast. But, pretty much everything is even better with cheese, so I also added some nutty gruyere and topped it all off with some fresh thyme. You need this toast in your life. It is delicious!

 

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Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Gruyere toasts

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 slices of thick-cut farmer’s bread

1 small onion, sliced very thin

½ lb shimeji mushrooms (if you can’t find these, cremini or shiitake mushrooms would also work great!)

Salt and pepper, to taste

5 tablespoons butter, divided

4 oz gruyere cheese, grated

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes, or until they are golden-brown and toasty.
  2. In a medium pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and lower the heat slightly. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they caramelize (this should take around 20 minutes). Remove the onions from the pan and set aside.
  3. Using the same pan the onions were in, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and DO NOT STIR. I know it’s tempting, but put down the spoon. Let the mushrooms sizzle in the hot butter for 2-3 minutes. This will allow them to crisp up and keep them from getting rubbery.
  4. Stir the mushrooms and let them cook through, about 2 more minutes. If the pan looks like it is drying out, add more butter.
  5. Turn off the heat, season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, and fold in your caramelized onions.
  6. Turn the broiler on high.
  7. Divide the mushrooms evenly between the two toasts. Top each toast with 2 oz of the shredded gruyere, and the chopped thyme.
  8. Broil the toasts for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.