Posts filed under Salad Dressing

Grilled Portobello mushroom burgers and chipotle mayonnaise

Since it’s summer and these mushroom burgers, which appeared in the Boston Globe last week,  are so good, I am going to share the recipe with you. You may think I’m just being a lazy blogger. I am. As I said, it’s summer. I also know that many of you do not necessarily read the Boston Globe, and often the links to the recipes disappear over time. So here is something for you or the vegetarian at your barbecue.  Time to lighten up, grillside. If you want to find out what I came up with for leftover grilled mushrooms (bulgur salad), you can find it here.

I admit, I tried to entice College Boy to eat these by adding bacon. Oh, they were good. Still, the mushrooms were a no-go for the picky eater formerly known as, The Picky Eater. I am not complaining. We have made a lot of progress since his grade school days.

Update: This Memorial Day (2012) you could be grillin' bold and Bush’s has the beans for it. Come join the cookout with

Cookin’ Canuck and Hoosier Homemade sponsored by Bush’s Grillin’ Beans.

Check out more recipes on their blogs. In the meantime, consider serving Bush's Fiesta Beans with your mushroom burgers.

 Happy grilling!

Grilled Portobello mushroom burgers

Serves 4

One reader asked me for directions on how to cook these without an outdoor grill, so I am filling you in at the end of recipe. You never know, it could be raining cats and dogs or you might be out of charcoal. Or you might not have a grill.

4 thick slices red onion (3/8-inch each)

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 large (4-inch) Portobello mushroom caps

4 small plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 ounces cheddar (or other cheese), cut in slices

4 soft rolls, cut in half horizontally

Chipotle mayonnaise (optional, see recipe below)

2  avocados, sliced

4 lettuce leaves

1. Soak four 10-inch bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.

2. To keep the onion rings intact while grilling, thread a skewer horizontally through the middle of each onion ring. With a pastry brush, coat the onions, mushrooms and tomatoes on both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Light a charcoal grill or turn a gas grill to medium-high. Grill the mushrooms (gill side down), the tomatoes (flat side down) and onions on their skewers for 4 minutes. Turn and grill for 3 more minutes, or until they are cooked through. Transfer the onions and tomatoes to a plate.

4. Top the mushrooms on the grill with cheese. Cover the grill and cook for one minute, or until the cheese melts. Toast the cut sides of the rolls just until they begin to brown. If you like, spread the tops and bottoms of the rolls with chipotle mayonnaise.

5. To assemble the burgers, place one cheese-topped mushroom on the bottom half of a roll. Top with 2 tomato halves, 1 onion ring, a few slices of avocado, a lettuce leaf and the top half of the roll. Repeat with remaining mushrooms.

To make these indoors:

1. Set an oven rack 4 inches from the broiler element and turn on the broiler.

2. Brush the vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper (step 2, above.) You do not need to skewer the onions. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

3. Set the mushrooms, gill side down, on the baking sheet. Arrange the onions and tomatoes in one layer next to the mushrooms. Broil for 4 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften and brown. Turn the mushrooms and onions over. Remove the tomatoes from the oven if they are soft and charred, otherwise, leave them on the baking sheet for a minute or so longer until they are cooked through. Broil the mushrooms and onions on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Remove the pan from the oven.

4. If you like, toast the rolls: set them on a separate baking sheet with the cut sides up and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, until brown. Keep your eye on them to prevent them from burning.

5. See step 5, above.


Just to prove to you that I am not a total slacker, I am adding a bonus recipe, a recipe for something that might not ever make it into the newspaper.  It involves homemade mayonnaise and some chipotle chilies.

Why do I want you to make homemade mayonnaise? Because it’s good. I mean really, really good. It tastes of fruity olive oil and tangy lemon (or in this case lime) and most importantly, it tastes fresh. It has nothing to do with mayonnaise as we commonly know it. So, if the jar in your fridge is empty and you want to save yourself the time and trouble of schlepping to the grocery store, grab a whisk and follow along. Even if you take your time, it should not require more than 10 minutes.

Into this mayonnaise I am going to suggest you stir some chopped chipotle chilies (oooh, inadvertent alliteration.) Then you are going to spread it on the rolls for your mushroom burger.

If you have more than you can use on the burgers, you are going to spread it on a lovely piece of fish and bake it in the oven.  Or maybe you will slather it on a few ears of corn and sprinkle them with lime juice. If you cook the corn on the grill, so much the better. Trust me, it’s a tried and true Mexican idea. We northerners adorn our corn with butter, so why not creamy mayonnaise with spicy hot chilies and a little lime juice?

Speaking of flavored mayonnaise and summer, you could also chop up some fresh basil or tarragon and add it to your mayo; your basil mayonnaise would nicely accompany the burgers if you decide to use fontina or a more pungent Italian cheese on them.

On the other hand, if you add some chopped pickles and capers and chives, and maybe a bit of mustard to your mayonnaise, you will end up with tartar sauce. Then you will have to fry some fish or clams to go with it. The mayonnaise thing is kind of never-ending.

Homemade mayonnaise with optional chipotle chiles

Makes 1 cup mayonnaise

I say optional chilies, because this is a basic mayonnaise recipe with chipotles stirred in. The only difference is that I suggest you use lime juice instead of the traditional lemon juice here. If you want to make a basic mayonnaise, then use lemon juice and add a little mustard (start with 1/2 teaspoon.) The olive oil is a forward flavor in homemade mayonnaise, so make sure you choose one that is not too assertive, or mix it with mild vegetable oil.

Chipotle chilies are smoked jalapeno chilies. That is spelled h.o.t. HOT. Use your discretion. Chipotles in adobe are softened in a spicy tomato sauce. You will find them in small cans near other Mexican products in the grocery store.

2 egg yolks*

1 tablespoon lime juice (or lemon juice if making traditional mayo)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup mild-tasting olive oil

1 to 2 tablespoons seeded and finely chopped chipotle chilies, to taste

1. Set a bowl on top of a dampened paper towel to keep it from sliding around. You will need two hands: one to whisk and the other to dribble in the oil, so the bowl needs to be stationary.

2. Whisk the yolks, lime juice and salt together in the bowl. Pour the oil in a measuring cup with a spout. Gradually, and I do mean gradually, whisk in a little olive oil. When the oil and yolk are emulsified, add a little more oil. Repeat. Keep adding the oil bit by bit, thoroughly whisking it in before you add more. When it is thick, taste it. You may want to add a few more drops of lime juice and some more salt.

3. Set aside half of the mayonnaise for another use. Stir the chipotles into the remaining mayonnaise. (You can always double up on the chipotles and use all the mayonnaise. I’m just trying to give you options.) Homemade mayonnaise will keep for about 4 days in the refrigerator.

*If you are squeamish about using raw egg yolks, you can try to find pasteurized egg yolks at the market. On the other hand, you may be lucky enough to have access to farm eggs. In that case, the best defense is to rinse the shells before you separate the eggs to prevent unsuspecting bacteria from contaminating the eggs. (FYI I am a carefree type and don’t do either unless the eggs are visibly dirty, but then I have a stomach of steel.)

Look and Cook: How to make mayonnaise 

Whisk egg yolks, lime juice and salt in a bowl set on top of a dampened paper towel to keep it from sliding around. (Note: I used farm eggs and boy are the yolks yellow!)

Very gradually whisk in the oil, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring after each addition until the oil and egg emulsify. When you have added about 1/3 cup of oil, you can start to dribble the oil in from the spout more quickly. Stir, stir, stir.

The mixture thickens as you add more oil.

Voila! Mayonnaise! This is not Hellmann's.

Chipotle chilies en adobo look like this. Remove the seeds, they have more heat than you need and interfere with the texture. Stir the chopped chilies into the mayonnaise, to taste.

Now smear it on some corn or spread it on a sandwich. 

Hello winter, hello salad? Watercress steps up

Salad in winter is a tough sell for us Northerners.

When I shared an apartment with my friend Judith after college, she introduced me to the concept of clean food v. dirty food. At the time, health food was more fringe than trend, so Judith was instrumental in shaping my idea of how to eat better.

Salad: clean, French fries: dirty

Fresh fruit: clean, Greasy burgers: dirty

Whole grains: clean, Pepperoni pizza with extra cheese: extra dirty


It is obvious. It is so, so obvious.

Why can we not grasp that anyone over the age of twenty-two can no longer recover from holiday eating with onion rings, pizza and junk food? We need to eat our greens with a vengeance.

Resistance to embracing this eating plan is common among the male members of the species. Perhaps because they can hold out longer without consequences. Just ask Man of the House. He still thinks steak and cheese subs should be on the menu for movie night.

Well, the chickens have come home to roost my friends. We are in full-tilt, post-holiday remorse mode and need to pack in the clean food. Find some winter-friendly greens like watercress or arugula. Add some fresh and dried fruit, some toasted nuts and a smattering of cheese, too. (Moderation is the key here.) They will take the boring out. Serve your zesty creation alongside some grilled fish or roasted chicken and you are eating like a king, dirty food be damned.

Watercress salad with oranges, cranberries, pine nuts and goat cheese

Reluctance to make a salad in winter is compounded by the fussiness of preparing watercress. Here’s what to do: Grasp the bunch of watercress with both hands and twist your hands in opposite directions to literally twist off the thick stems. Discard the stems and swish the remaining sprigs in the bowl of a salad spinner. Spin them dry and remove the few remaining thick stems and use the leaves, still attached to their thin stems, in the salad. Easy!

Serves 4

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 large oranges

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 small pinch sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 bunches watercress, thick stems removed

1/4 cup dried cranberries

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pine nuts on a pie pan or baking sheet and bake until fragrant and toasty, 5 to 7 minutes. Watch carefully. They burn quickly once they are hot.

2. Cut a slice from the top and bottom of each orange. Place them upright on a cutting board and using a sharp knife and a sawing motion, carve away the peel and white pith. With the oranges still upright, quarter them. Lay the quarters with the flat side down on the cutting board and slice across each one to make wedge-shaped slices. Reserve any excess juice on the cutting board for the dressing. You should have about 2 tablespoons.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved orange juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil in a thin stream.

4. In a large salad bowl, combine the watercress, orange slices, cranberries and pine nuts. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over the top.

Posted on January 3, 2011 and filed under Salad, Salad Dressing, Winter food.

My big fat Greek salad

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

Well, it’s the heat, too. I have to blame it on something.  My brain turning to mush, that is.

Mush, cotton, fluff, stuffed. 

Stultified­­. Yes! that’s the word I’m looking for: to diminish somebody’s interest and liveliness of mind by being repetitive, tedious or boring.

Or by being just too damn hot.

Really, how can I reasonably expect to be able to figure out what to feed the troops for dinner? That is so taxing. I know I’m not alone here, ladies.

Now if only my impaired brain could remember which days the farmer’s markets near me are taking place. And when I get there, if only I could remember what is in my refrigerator, so I don’t end up with too much zucchini. Oh wait.  It is the season of too much zucchini. Zucchini that needs to be cooked, which I do not want to do. I am not a fan of raw zucchini. Nor am I a fan of cooking anything in this weather.

So here it is: my big fat Greek salad. The salad I make when I can’t think of what to make. I am reluctant to report exactly how often, so let’s just say we are practically living on this stuff. If I have the presence of mind to have some feta cheese about me. And that is the one thing I try very, very hard to remember, even in my less than optimal mental state. 


If I do forget, not to worry.  I live in a feta cheese hotspot. I can buy all the feta cheese, pita and Greek yogurt my heart desires. In fact, I can find myself at any number of Middle Eastern markets in three minutes and collect everything I need for a Greek salad.

If I happen to have some cooked shrimp I can add it to the salad, or serve it with some cold grilled chicken, mixed into the salad or on the side. Grilled chicken does not technically count as cooking since a) it is cooked outdoors and b) not I, but Man of the House takes care of grilling. Ever since we scrapped our defunct gas grill and he insisted on replacing it with a charcoal-eating Weber, I have retired from grilling.

Ha! I won that battle handsomely. First, points for agreeing to “give in” to acquire a messy, fussy hard-to-use piece of outdoor cooking equipment.  Second, more points for now never needing to have anything whatsoever to do with said piece of equipment.

This is an authentic Greek salad in that it does not contain lettuce. At least I think it’s authentic.  I ate a version of it  almost every day on a long trip to Greece years ago. Back in the good old days, before 9/11, before the recession and before my ten-year old turned into a teenager and began to feel less enthusiastic about mommy time. So I eat this salad with more than a little bit of nostalgia. 


The basics are cucumber, tomato, black olives, feta and vinaigrette. You can add in other vegetables, like sweet peppers, leftover cooked green beans, or thinly sliced fennel.(as in the photo.)  The beans and fennel are not traditional, but you get the idea. Add whatever you want to use up. Just keep it clean, and don’t overdo.  You can play around with amounts, depending on what you have on hand.

Greek Salad (Makes  about 4 generous servings)

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 to 2 cucumbers, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 to 2 juicy, ripe tomatoes (cut in same size as cukes) or cherry tomatoes (halved)

1 yellow or orange pepper, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1 handful of cooked green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces

1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

About 1/3 cup pitted Greek olives, or to taste

About 3 ounces feta, cut in small cubes

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

1. Whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, fennel and olives. Toss and taste. Add more oil and vinegar if necessary. Gently mix in the feta being careful not to smoosh it too much. Sprinkle with oregano and more pepper if you like. Close your eyes and pretend you are at a Greek taverna surrounded by grey-green hills of olive trees and air scented with oregano and thyme.

Posted on August 11, 2010 and filed under Salad, Salad Dressing, Summer food.