Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Veg-Heads: Grilled Portobello Parmesan

My friend Kim, who also happens to be a personal trainer and fitness fanatic, is a Veg-Head. In the fitness-obsessed part of the Rocky Mountains in which we live, this is no big deal. Almost every good restaurant has a few--if not a lot--of vegetarian items on the menu. And we get spoiled pretty fast around here; we expect that a menu will have meat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free options. After all, it's our health right?

Poor Kim went camping over the 4th of July holiday; camping in South Dakota, to be exact. Now I grew up in North Dakota, and I had a small inkling of the difficulties she'd face being a Veg-Head in the Dakotas. Not that things haven't improved, because they have, but let's just say that her options near Mount Rushmore were limited, to say the least. Fun choice: salad or straight carbs? Poor sweetie lived on PowerBars and Kashi cereal.

When I saw this recipe for Grilled Portobello Parmesan in the August 2009 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, I thought of her. Actually, I thought of a lot of poor Veg-Heads I know who suffer dearly at summer cookouts, sheepishly toting their own Boca burger to the party, praying it doesn't touch the chicken or the steak next to it.

Portobello mushrooms are great on the grill, and this dish is delicious and hearty enough to please meat eaters, too. And don't you think it would be a lovely gesture to be able to assure the Veg-Head in your life that never fear, she can leave her tofu dogs at home this next weekend?

Grilled Portobello Parmesan
from Bon Appetit Magazine, August 2009
serves 6

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 large garlic clove, pressed
6 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills scraped out*
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
6 1/2-inch-thick heirloom tomato slices (from 2 very large tomatoes)
7 to 8 ounces Fontina cheese, thinly sliced **

(optional) warm tomato sauce for dunking.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pressed garlic clove in a small bowl. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange portobello mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet, gill side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon generous tablespoon of dressing into each mushroom; swirl to coat.

Stir ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil in a small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange tomato slices on plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper. ***

Place mushrooms on the grill, gill side down. Grill until edges begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness of mushrooms. Transfer mushrooms to same baking sheet, gill side up. Nestle 1 tomato slice into each mushroom. Divide ricotta cheese mixture atop sliced tomatoes, spreading to cover, about 3 tablespoons per mushroom. Top with fontina slices, dividing equally. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon parmesan over each. Carefully return mushrooms to grill.

Cover barbecue and cook until mushrooms are soft and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle remaining basil over. Place mushrooms on plates. Drizzle remaining dressing around mushrooms and serve.

*Note from me: the only portobellos I could find at the store were Titanic-sized, so this recipe only yielded 2 huge-ass stuffed dudes. I just cut them in half :)

**Fontina cheese ain't cheap. Splurge. It's worth it here. It's slightly nutty and melts like a dream.

***As per my usual bent, I riffed with the recipe. I had 2/3 cup leftover jarred artichoke hearts, so I chopped them up and added them to the ricotta filling. I also added a clove of chopped garlic and a smidge of crushed red pepper to the filling.


If you don't make these, you are nuts. They were so incredibly delicious. Everyone at the table kept saying, "Wow. Oh Wow." I loved the additions to the filling, and nobody, I mean nobody, is going to miss the meat. Adults, that is.

The girls were dubious about the mushrooms (as you might be when the thing you're about to eat is almost the size of your own head). They loved the gooey cheese on the top and took a few spoonfuls of the filling. But actually ingesting a mushroom? My kids are SO not there yet. But that's okay.

These are winners, gentle readers! And eating less meat is good for you and the planet...bet eh, when something's as yummy as this, you'll be too busy eating to remember.


  1. My Mum's been a veg head for twenty years, fantastic recipe, will do it as a surprise this weekend - cheers!

  2. mmmmm...I do love portabella's on the grill! I love all of the flavors here...sounds amazing!

  3. Portabellas tempt me to become a vegetarian. Love them! This looks great. Kim and I must have been very close to each other on the 4th. Have her email me next time and I'll send her some ideas. We love that area and are out there a lot!

  4. I love cheese on mushrooms so this is a new one to try! Yum Yum! I think it is true - these babies are just as good as meat! xxx

  5. Just starred this in our feedreader - our daughter is vegetarian, and she loves mushrooms and cheese. Looks like a winner to me!

  6. I adore portobello mushrooms!! I'm definitely trying this one, although I'm not sure where I'll get the cheese... I'll have to price out the Fontina at a couple places 'cuz I'm cheap.

  7. Ok dh hates mushrooms so he will never go for this, maybe couild you make them for us at Sheri's pleaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase. LOL

  8. Looks SO good. I'll probably make it after our big trip. We're heading your way! Colorado bound. Looking forward to seeing all of those perfectly proportioned and physically fit wealthy women that walk around some of the more elite mountain towns. I will admire their lean biceps and calf muscles as I frump along with my children, wondering what we should eat next.