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Kitchen Mailbox: Portly portobellos make filling sandwiches

Thursday, May 18, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

We would all agree that "fungi sandwich" sounds, well, disgusting. "Mushroom sandwich" has a lot more appeal.

A mushroom is a fungus, not a vegetable. And of the 2,500 different varieties of mushrooms, Kitchen Mailbox is focusing on one of the most popular -- the portobello.

Portobello mushrooms are the larger relative of cremini and white mushrooms. They have a meaty texture and large flat caps (the caps can grow up to 6 inches wide) which makes them ideal for grilling. But before the '80s little attention was shown to this large mushroom. They were so unpopular that growers usually had to dispose of them until a creative marketing strategy gave this mushroom its marketable name -- and a star was born.

Earlier civilizations believed that ingesting mushrooms would produce superhumans. They also believed mushrooms could aid in finding lost articles and lead the soul to the kingdom of the gods.

Today, we appreciate mushrooms for their flavor. Whether paired with meats or vegetables or served alone, they make an impression.

Portobello mushrooms should last in the refrigerator up to seven days in a paper bag. Don't store any mushrooms in a plastic bag: They need air circulation or they will deteriorate quickly. And never soak mushrooms in water, because they are absorbent and will become mushy.

Source: Mushroom Council and "Food Lover's Companion" by Sharon Tyler Herbst

Peg MacPherson of Speers requested a recipe for a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich made with roasted red peppers and provolone cheese on focaccia. Today's recipe -- Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches -- was sent in by Jackie Passant of Natrona Heights. As you'll notice, the mushrooms in this recipe are sauteed, not grilled, and the bread is sour-dough. But as Passant said, "I don't see why the sauteing of the mushrooms and onions couldn't be changed to grilling and likewise the bread to focaccia."

That's exactly what we did. We bought already-sliced portobello mushrooms (1/2-inch thick, at Giant Eagle). We sliced the onions (we didn't separate onions into rings); placed the mushrooms and onions in a bowl and poured the olive oil over both, then tossed lightly. We prepared the mayonnaise dressing following the directions. We then grilled the mushrooms and onions on medium heat for about 3 minutes or until they turned a darker color around the edges. We returned to the directions below to complete the sandwich.

Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sliced portobello mushroom caps
Two 1/4-inch-thick slices red onion, separated into rings
1/4 cup regular or fat-free mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 slices sourdough bread (1 1/2 ounces each)
2/3 cup bottled roasted red bell peppers
2 1-ounce slices Provolone cheese

Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion; cover and cook 7 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool.

Combine mayonnaise, basil, oregano, garlic and black pepper. Spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise on each bread slice. On two slices of bread, layer 1/3 cup bell pepper, 1/2 cup mushrooms and onions and one slice of cheese and finally the remaining slices of bread. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Nancy Forbidussi of Library completed our sandwich with her recipe for focaccia bread.

Herb Focaccia

1 11-ounce can refrigerated French bread dough or 1 loaf frozen pizza dough
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Unroll dough into a 15-by-10-inch jellyroll pan, flattening dough slightly. Press handle of a wooden spoon into dough to make indentations at one-inch intervals; drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and remaining ingredients. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until light brown.


Mary Fornear of Castle Shannon would like the recipe for the dip that is served with the onion blossom at the Olive Garden restaurant.

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