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Portobello burger with spinach and garlic aioli. (And other things that make me happy)

2011 April 10
by Steph Lawrence

Oh, hi there. Remember me? I write on this blog, sometimes. I guess it has been awhile, and I’ve missed you.

Living in San Francisco it is easy to be a glutton (I live way too close to Tartine), so some days and weeks I try to be a little more conscious about what I feed my body. This is one of those weeks, and I have been happier for it. A large part of that happiness might have been last night’s dinner. Since I have been working four jobs, applying to grad schools, and taking a calculus course my time in the kitchen has been woefully cut down. As it turns out, this has not made me very happy.

I have been thinking a lot about what makes me happy, because sometimes when you get really busy you forget about doing the important things. Like this blog, for instance. Somehow it became a thing on my to-do list and then got pushed to the bottom of my to-do list where it sat forgotten and lonely and served only to make me feel guilty about my inablity to cross things off a certain to-do list. I forgot that I just like making delicious things and taking too many photos of them and putting them here on this strange internet world for people to see. What a strange hobby. But I quite like it. I got to thinking that maybe there are other things I have been forgetting that I love, so I decided to make a list. There is nothing that I love more than a good list-making session. Here are some other things I like:

    - This boy I like. Let’s call him Kudge (there’s a story there for another time)
    - My family, who I love and adore
    - Crisp San Francisco days (today, for instance)
    - Bikram yoga. And spinning. And very occasionally running.
    - Socks that match
    - Things that are orange
    - Making quilts
    - Making anything, really
    - Human Planet (I was just introduced to this. You should probably just stop everything and go watch some right now. After you make this recipe, of course)
    - My jobs (I know, I probably have too many. But I really love them all. You can see what I do here if you’re curious)
    - The Song of Ice and Fire series. Sure, call me a nerd. You’d be right. But they’re AWESOME and I am reading them right now, on public transit and everything, for all the world to see. Man does it make me happier than nothing else to be absorbed into a new literary world (some credit goes to this man, here)
    - Calculus. (Who knew? Turns out I love math)
    - These portobello burgers. Why don’t you go and make some for yourself and be happy, too.

Portobello Burgers with Spinach and Garlic Aioli
Serves 2

    2 large portobello mushrooms
    1 to two handfuls of baby spinach leaves
    swiss or gruyere cheese (optional)

    For the marinade:
    1 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar
    1 1/2 tbs soy sauces
    1 1/2 tbs olive oil
    1 tsp stone ground mustard
    1 tsp honey
    1 tsp fresh thyme
    fresh ground pepper pepper

    For the aioli:
    1 egg yolk
    1/2 tsp water
    2 cloves garlic
    1 cup olive oil
    1 1/2 tsp tarragon vinegar (can use champagne or other vinegar)

    About 1 hour before you’re ready to start grilling, prepare the marinade. Whisk together all marinade ingredients. Pour two-thirds of the marinade over the mushrooms, reserving some. Flip the mushrooms over and brush the remaining marinade over the tops of the mushrooms. Let marinate until ready to grill.

    While marinating, prepare the aioli. Crush the garlic in a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt (you can also use the back side of a knife, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle) until garlic becomes a smooth paste. Whisk half of the garlic, 1/2 tsp. water, and the egg yolk until well combined. Now begins the tricky(ish) part: slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mixture. Start by adding a teaspoon at a time and whisking to incorporate well. When done slowly, the egg will absorb the oil and begin to thicken and lighten in color. If done too quickly (like I did, on my first try), the mixture won’t thicken and you will be left with an oily, eggy mess that looks nothing like a mayonaise and everything like a gross, liquidy egg yolk. Never fear! You can always try again. It’s worth it. In total it is probably about 5 to 10 minutes to make, although my forearms would disagree and told you it took longer. When the mixture comes together and is thick you can start to add the oil more quickly until it is all incorporated. If the mixture becomes too thick you can thin by adding 1/2 teaspoon of water at a time. Add the remaining garlic and salt and vinegar to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    At some point during all this, perhaps during your second attempt at making aioli, have a lovely sous-chef start the charcoals for the grill. When hot, place mushrooms on the grill. Cook 3-4 minutes on one side, until the portobello begins to soften and is slightly charred. Then flip over. When flipped, place a handful of spinach leaves on each mushroom and let wilt. If serving with cheese, place cheese on top of the spinach. Serve on toasted buns when done, with a generous dollop of aioli.

    Enjoy and be happy.

    *Note: Aioli recipe adapted from Alice Waters’ In The Green Kitchen, which is a lovely cookbook that you should check out if you haven’t already

Some photos of the aioli-making process, which was lengthy and soreness-inducing but TOTALLY WORTH IT. I have never made a mayonaise or aioli before and was very pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of ingredients and the deliciousness. It was the perfect thing for a portobello (or really any kind of) burger.

8 Responses leave one →
  1. April 11, 2011

    perhaps the best portabello mushroom i have ever tasted. thank you stepho!! =D

  2. Elise permalink
    April 11, 2011

    I am not a big mushroom fan but I definitely want to try these!!! They look so good!!

  3. Will permalink
    April 11, 2011

    I may have focused on the wrong thing in this post, but did you read the New Yorker article about George R R Martin? Do you hate him for waiting so long to write his next book??

    Also, your aioli made me think of a new obsession: Kirin and I have a new fascination with chimichuri. Sauces are the sauce of life.

    Well done and good to have you blogging again.

    • April 11, 2011

      No, you probably got the most important part. I have not yet read the New Yorker article, though it is sitting on our coffee table waiting for me. However, I can answer you about the waiting bit. Lucky for me I am only on the second book, so I haven’t had to partake in this waiting pain. I am a little worried about whether the next two will take so long, and if I need to space out my currently voracious appetite for more reading… Have you read them? Maybe you need to go start, if not. Also, perhaps a chimichuri sauce is the next thing to try. It will be a bribe for you and Kirin to come over!

  4. May 4, 2011

    I pinned this to pinterest because I have been craving portobellos like mad and this sounds perfect. I love your photography by the way.

  5. Justine permalink
    October 4, 2011

    Yumm! If you screw up your aioli, or mayonnaise, you can whisk it into a “good” batch by slowly drizzling in the same manner you did to make it.

    • October 4, 2011

      What great advice! Thank you so much, I’ll definitely try this next time my batch goes awry…

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