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Portobello Pizzas great for oven or grill

Thursday, June 20, 2002

By Betsy Kline, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

When a new recipe from Kurt Karafinski pops up in the Countdown to Dinner e-mail, a tug-of-war invariably ensues. Just reading his recipes makes our mouths water.


This time around, Countdown veteran Kurt has come up with a juicy spin on pizza that dispenses with the time-consuming crust and goes right to the meat of the matter -- a meaty portobello mushroom cap.

The idea has been percolating in our Glenshaw gourmet's brain for some time.

"Some years ago people at work talked about the portobello mushroom sandwiches at places like Jimmy G's and the Aspinwall Grill. ... It was suggested that the mushrooms be marinated for an hour in Italian dressing and then grilled, but that was all."

One night the senior systems analyst for Eckerd Drugs hit on the idea of combining the oversized mushroom caps with leftover homemade spaghetti sauce. More ingredients suggested themselves and soon he was adding leftover pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and onions.

"It's great because you can customize to particular tastes. For instance, I'm the only one here except the cat who likes anchovies," Kurt said. Add whatever you like on your pizza. And, he added, "it's hard to mess up."

The concept of a crustless pizza was a hard-sell to his 4-year-old son, Christopher, who likes the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizzas his mom makes for him.

Watching him make the portobello pizzas one night, "Christopher asked what I was doing and I explained it. 'That's not the way Mom makes them,' he said. After I went through a lengthy explanation, he shakes his head and says, 'Pretend pizzas!'

"[Wife] Debby came home and he said, 'Mommy, Daddy's making you pretend pizzas.' "

Kurt hasn't had a chance to grill these "pretend" pizzas because he feels limited on his charcoal grill. But that's all about to change.

"On Sunday, Debby told me that as part of my Father's Day gift I was getting a gas grill. We'll be shopping for it together, once I finish staining the deck again."

Kurt's Portobello Pizzas

4 to 6 portobello mushrooms
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
1 cup spaghetti sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup chopped pepperoni
3/4 cup chopped onion

If making it indoors: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stem and dark gills from the underside of the mushrooms (see note below). Brush the mushrooms with the Italian dressing. Place the mushrooms face down on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the mushrooms over. Fill the mushrooms with about 2 tablespoons of the spaghetti sauce or how ever much it takes to cover the entire bottom of the mushrooms. Throw on the pepperoni and onions and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella cheese Return to the oven for about 10 minutes, remove and serve. We usually have some fresh French bread and a fruit salad for this light , summer meal.

Now, if you want, you can pretty much follow the exact same steps except use a nice hot grill instead of the oven. Since all I own is an old fashion "charcoal" grill just getting it fired up over runs the 30-minute requirements for Countdown to Dimner. But it's very tasty grilled as well! Of course, the pepperoni and onion can be substituted with any favorite pizza toppings!

Tester's note: Removing the gills is easy. Hold the mushroom, cap side down, firmly in the palm of one hand, and use a metal tablespoon measure, or better still, a butter curler, to scrape out the gills with firm but careful strokes. We used a butter curler and it made quick work of the mushroom's dark underbelly.

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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