Summer Vegetable & Shrimp Pizza

CELEBRATING HERITAGE DAY!

In 1974, the first Monday of August was made an official provincial holiday to recognize and celebrate the varied cultural heritage of Albertans. Businesses can chose whether or not to recognize the day as a general holiday, which most do.

The Heritage Festival held in our city of Edmonton, Alberta Canada is a three-day event to sample delicious food, see creative performances and celebrate Canada’s multiculturalism. Thousands of visitors come to enjoy the tastes, smells and sounds of different nations around the world.

Even though many people will take in the day’s events and cultural food at the festival, some chose to pack a picnic lunch and take a drive somewhere just to relax.

I am posting a summer veggie & shrimp pizza that should work real well with that idea.

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Summer Vegetable & Shrimp Pizza
Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until almost done. Remove to paper towel.
  2. Add zucchini, onion & garlic to skillet with bacon drippings & sauté for 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Increase heat slightly & add 1/2 tsp. of oil. Add shrimp & cook for 1 minute, turning halfway through. Transfer to a plate. Cut cooked corn kernels off of the cobs.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Brush Naan breads with olive oil & sprinkle with salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese. Top with zucchini, onions, garlic, shrimp, corn, bacon bits & mozzarella cheese.
  5. Bake until cheese is bubbling & naan bread is 'toasted', about 7-8 minutes. Allow pizza to rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 8 slices. Sprinkle with basil & parsley. Serve

Black Bean Pulled Pork Quesadillas

A quesadilla is a Mexican dish that dates back to the 16th century. Traditional quesadillas were made with a corn tortilla that was warmed on a griddle, filled with cheese and various other fillings (meat, vegetables), and then folded over to be eaten by hand. The addition of toppings like guacamole, salsa and sour cream seems to have come along later.

Quesadillas are simple and quick to make. Place the quesadilla in a dry griddle (or skillet) over low to medium low heat. That way, you don’t have to handle greasy tortillas with your hands. But more importantly, oil is a heat conductor which browns the tortillas faster than the filling heats through and the cheese melts. Tortillas are thin – and they cook fast!

If you cover with a lid, the filling heats through and melts the cheese faster, before the tortilla gets too brown. Cook until underside is golden and crispy, then remove the lid.

Pulled pork and savory black beans are a great match by themselves but adding creamy avocado takes it up a few more notches. 

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Black Bean Pulled Pork Quesadillas
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Instructions
  1. On a griddle, heat butter & sauté mushrooms until moisture has evaporated; add corn & green onions. Sauté for another few minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a dish.
  2. Wipe griddle with paper towel; place 2 tortillas on dry griddle & top each with 60 gm of the cheese. Next, divide black beans, green onions, corn & mushrooms between the 2 tortillas. Top with another 60 gm each of the remaining cheese. Cover the tortillas with the 2 remaining tortillas.
  3. If your griddle does not have a cover, use a sheet pan to cover the 'quesadillas' until cheese melts & quesadillas are heated through. Remove from griddle onto cutting board. Cut into wedges & place on serving plates. Top with avocado slices & diced Roma tomatoes. If you prefer, sprinkle with additional cheese & green onion. Serve with your choice ... salsa or sour cream or maybe both!

Pineapple & Canadian Bacon Pizza

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

It seems there’s no pizza topping quite as polarizing as pineapple. While some pizza lovers might crave that sweet, sour & salty combination of fruit combined with melted cheese, others not so much.

Hawaiian pizza, which usually comes topped with canned pineapple and ham, doesn’t come from Italy, the birthplace of pizza, nor does it come from Hawaii, a pineapple paradise. Rather surprisingly, the country responsible for the odd combination of ingredients is Canada. The pizza was actually created in 1962 by a Greek immigrant called Sam Panopoulos.

Along with his brothers, Sam Panopoulos, owned a restaurant in Ontario, Canada. The food was initially very simple … traditional diner food such as pancakes and burgers. Inspired by a recent trip to Naples, Panopoulos decided to introduce pizza to the menu.

It was a relatively new idea in North America as most pizzas, at that time, were served topped with mushrooms, bacon and pepperoni. Panopoulos became more adventurous, introducing Americanized versions of Chinese meals such as sweet and sour chicken, which includes pineapple so he decided to take a risk with his pizzas as well.

He added canned pineapple to one pizza, with ham, not knowing whether it would be a hit or not. Soon , the combination of sweet and savory was proving a winner with his customers.

At the same time, there was a growing fascination with Tiki culture. Hawaii had officially became an American state in 1959 and people had fallen in love with the island lifestyle. Canned pineapple began to be imported into North America, along with pineapple juice. The brand of tinned pineapple Panopoulos used in his pizzas was called Hawaiian, so his creation became known as ‘Hawaiian Pizza’.

From its humble Canadian beginnings, the combination spread across North America and ultimately the world … but despite its global appeal, pineapple pizza has remained controversial. Today, Brion & I are having a version of this Canadian Pizza on naan bread. Yum!

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Pineapple & Canadian Bacon Pizza
Instructions
  1. Drain pineapple chunks on paper towel. Grate cheeses & mix into a combo. Slice green onions. Chop bacon into bite size pieces.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place a shallow baking pan with some water in it on the bottom shelf.
  3. Brush each naan bread with a Tbsp of BBQ sauce; top with some cheese, leaving 1/2-inch border. Arrange bacon, then top with pineapple & some green onions. Finish with a bit more cheese then sprinkle with 'everything bagel spice'. Your goal, of course, is to divide all ingredients equally between the four Naan breads. Place pizzas on a baking tray & place on rack above pan with hot water.
  4. Bake 15-20 minutes or until bottom is crispy & cheese is bubbling. Because the Naan bread has already been baked, I found with using the tray of water in the oven allowed the pizzas to become hot & melty while the crust heated & stayed chewy without over baking. These were soooo... good!

Chicken & Leek Calzones

Like their Italian cousin pizza, calzones originated in Naples, Italy during the 18th century. The calzone’s original purpose was to serve as a ‘walk around pizza‘ that were not meant to be eaten with utensils. This Italian style turnover is created by folding a pizza in half. When correctly prepared, the calzone’s outer crust is baked to crispy perfection while the inside filling contains a warm, gooey blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses along side an assortment of hearty meats and vegetables. The crust of calzones, traditionally made with yeast, olive oil, water, flour, and salt, makes them extremely portable. Calzones, are always baked.  The original calzones of Naples, were most likely much smaller than the modern calzones seen in North American restaurants today, because the pizzas created in 18th century Italy were for a single person to enjoy.

Calzones are similar to stromboli and the two are sometimes confused. Unlike calzones, which are always stuffed and folded into a crescent shape, a stromboli is typically rolled and folded into a cylinder. Both are pizza derivatives. They utilize the same ingredients to achieve different versions of a sealed, portable meal. Calzones are traditionally stuffed with cheese, tomatoes, and marinara. But much like the pizza, any sort of toppings can be added inside the calzone.

Today, I wanted to put a bit of a different spin on the calzone idea. I’m making a potato/leek yeast dough, filling them with chicken & mushrooms & adding a bit of pizazz to the shape. What’s old is new again!

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Chicken & Leek Calzones
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Course Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Lunch
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Leeks
  1. Rinse & slice leek. In a skillet, place oil, sliced leek, sage leaves, garlic, salt & pepper. When the garlic is fragrant & the leek is tender, turn off heat & transfer to a dish to cool.
Dough
  1. In a small dish, combine yeast with lukewarm water; allow to stand for a few minutes until frothy. In a large bowl, combine butter, salt, sour cream, cooked, mashed potato & 1/2 of the leek mixture. Beat together well.
  2. When yeast is ready, add it to the wet mixture. Mix in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is blended, turn onto a lightly buttered work surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough ball in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. While dough is rising prepare filling.
Filling
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon to a cooked but not real crisp stage. Transfer to a paper towel, reserving bacon drippings to sauté mushrooms in. When mushrooms have cooked & released most of their moisture, remove from heat.
  2. In a bowl, combine remaining other half of cooked leek mixture, bacon, cooked chicken (or turkey), & mushrooms. Add Ranch dressing & salt to taste. Set aside.
Assembly & Baking
  1. On a lightly greased work surface, divide risen dough into 8 balls. Roll each ball into an OVAL shape, about 7 x 6-inch size. Divide filling into 8 portions. On each oval, place a portion of the filling in a straight line on the middle of the dough.
  2. Keep one side free & cut the other side of the dough into thin strips using a knife. Fold the uncut side over the filling first, then continue rolling over the cut side.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper & place the 'calzones' on it, curving them into a C shape. (Place the side with the 'strips' curving to the outside). Brush calzones lightly with egg wash; cover with plastic wrap & allow to rise for about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Bake calzones for 40 minutes until a golden brown. Serve hot or room temperature.

English Muffin Shitake Mushroom & Herb Pizza

From a history standpoint, I won’t dive into the origins of the English muffin simply because the origin doesn’t seem to be that clear. Some claim the English muffin is actually an American invention. Others claim it’s English, but with some slight modifications over time. It seems they began as another version of an English crumpet and have been marketed in North America in some form since the late 1850s (they were called toaster crumpets then).

An English muffin is a flat, savory yeasted flatbread, made from wheat flour (in most cases). It is made on a griddle, not in the oven like ‘regular’ muffins would. As with any food there are a ton of variations on the recipe. Their main distinguishing characteristic–although they are smooth on the outside, holes cover the interior surface. Those holes provide little pockets to hold melted butter or drops of marmalade, jam or jelly.

English Muffin Pizza is inspired by the infamous pizza bagels (and/or bagel bites). Pizza bagels didn’t come on the scene until about 1959 and there are actually several claims as to who invented them. The earliest claimed version was a pizza cooked on half of a bagel that was baked without a hole…which is kind of like an English muffin. Could this be the earliest iteration of the English Muffin Pizza?

That being said, English muffins actually can be used in numerous ways such as:
 hamburger buns next time you make burgers
–  a side of garlic bread on pasta night
–  the base of an appetizer instead of crackers
–  in your favorite panini sandwich instead of bread
–  avocado toast with an English muffin

These mushroom pizzas make a great little lunch.

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Shitake Mushroom & Herb Pizza on English Muffins
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Instructions
  1. Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mushrooms; sauté 4 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and herbs; continue cooking 1 minute. Stir in sherry; remove from heat.
  2. Toast muffins; place on baking sheet. Brush with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; cover with cheese. Top evenly with mushroom mixture & a bit more cheese.
  3. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining herbs.

Salmon & Leek Naan Pizza

The Naan which is known for its soft and fluffiness and original flavour also led to other types of it being created.

Different types of Naan also became popular depending on them either being stuffed or coated with specific toppings. The many varieties include:

  • Plain Naan – simplest form which is brushed with ghee or butter
  • Garlic Naan – topped with crushed garlic and butter
  • Kulcha Naan – has a filling of cooked onions
  • Keema Naan – includes a filling of minced lamb, mutton or goat meat
  • Roghani Naan – sprinkled with sesame seeds
  • Peshawari Naan and Kashmiri Naan –  filled with a mixture of nuts and raisins including pistachios
  • Paneer Naan – stuffed with a filling of cheese flavored with ground coriander and paprika
  • Amritsari Naan – stuffed with mash potatoes and spices 
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Salmon & Leek Naan Pizza
Instructions
  1. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until leeks are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; let cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, combine sour cream, dill, mustard and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place naan on prepared baking sheets. Evenly spread sour cream mixture on naan, leaving 1/2-inch border. Top with leek mixture, salmon and Swiss cheese. Bake until edges of naan are lightly browned and salmon is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with dill fronds, if desired.

Salmon Lasagna

Lasagna is not a quickie weekday meal but as we (lasagna lovers) all know, it’s definitely worth the effort. There’s several elements involved: making the filling, the sauce, layering everything and cooking it all together.

Canned salmon is a nutritious option to have in your pantry staples. Being very versatile it can be paired with plenty of different ingredients to transform it into a variety of healthy meals. Whether you use red or pink is a personal choice but opt for responsibly sourced wild as opposed to farmed in any case.

I have given ‘meaty’ lasagna a seafood twist that’s just as delicious if you enjoy salmon.

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Salmon Lasagna
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword salmon lasagna
Servings
Ingredients
Mushroom & Leek Filling
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword salmon lasagna
Servings
Ingredients
Mushroom & Leek Filling
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Instructions
Mushroom & Leek Filling
  1. In a saucepan, heat butter & saute mushrooms, leeks & garlic for 5-10 minutes, stirring over low heat until softened & moisture has evaporated. Add the salt.
Bechamel Sauce
  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan until it is foaming. Whisk in the flour to make the roux & cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add milk, whisking constantly until it is incorporated into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a low simmer & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in mustard, dill, lemon zest & (40 gm) grated Parmesan. Season with salt & pepper.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Evenly spread a small amount of sauce to the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Place a layer of 3 cooked lasagna noodles over the sauce then cover with a bit more sauce.
  3. Spread the salmon over the sauce & top with half of the shredded mozzarella. Top that with a bit more sauce & the next layer of 3 lasagna noodles. Spread the mushroom/leek filling on top then add the remaining shredded mozzarella.
  4. Top with a final layer of 3 lasagna noodles & cover with the remaining bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan/cheddar combo.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing to serve.

Stuffed Pretzels

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Oktoberfest has somewhat strayed from its roots. The first festival in 1810 was originally to celebrate the marriage of German Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became king, and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. Since then, its become a decadent celebration of fall flavors and fine beers worldwide. This 16-day festival is a celebration of German culture, music, bratwurst, beer, pretzels and much more.

In keeping with Oktoberfest, I thought I would try my hand at making some pretzels this year.

Traditionally, pretzels are a baked bread product made from yeast dough and shaped into a twisted knot. Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels but various sweet and savory options are now being used. The soft pretzels are eaten soon after they are baked while the hard pretzels have a longer shelf life.

The characteristic flavor and crust of a pretzel comes from the soda treatment. After being shaped, the dough is dipped in boiling water to which soda has been added and then baked. This treatment helps what is known as the Maillard reaction. The process of boiling the pretzels in soda water breaks the protein and increases the amino acid content in the dough, giving it an amazing crust.

Just for a bit of extra flavor, I am stuffing our pretzels. Should be good!

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Stuffed Pretzels
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Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American, German
Servings
PRETZELS
Course Brunch, Lunch
Cuisine American, German
Servings
PRETZELS
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Pretzels
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, yeast & a pinch of salt; allow to sit for 5 minutes until frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt & sugar. Add the frothy yeast mixture along with the melted butter; stir to combine. On a lightly floured work surface, knead dough for about 5 minutes & shape into a ball. Lightly butter the bowl, place the dough in it, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise for 45 minutes in a draft-free place.
  3. Prepare fillings. This can be done ahead of time which will make the process easier, if you wish.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Filling
  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove from skillet, blot on a paper towel & crumble. Place in a bowl & combine with cooked chicken, cheese & ranch dressing; toss until well mixed. Set aside.
Pulled Pork & Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, add pork filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
Bratwurst & Sauerkraut Filling
  1. In a skillet, sauté bratwurst until browned & cooked through. Drain on paper towel; place in a bowl with other bratwurst filling ingredients & combine well. Set aside.
Assembly
  1. After dough has risen, cut into 12 equal pieces & form each one into a 14-inch strand. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough, lengthwise then roll it out a bit widthwise.
  2. Divide each of your fillings into 4. Lay a line of filling down the center of each flattened pretzel. You will have 4 of each kind. Press the edges of the dough together to seal in the filling. Roll each strand back & forth to fully seal it up.
  3. Shape into a pretzel by twisting the two ends around each other then bring it back down over the body of the pretzel.
Boiling & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Bring 3 cups of water & 1/3 cup baking soda to a low boil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Dip each pretzel in soda water for 20 seconds, remove, using a slotted spoon to drain excess water. Lay pretzels on parchment lined baking sheet & brush with egg wash. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
  3. Bake until tops turn golden brown, 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven & cool on wire rack.

Salmon Picnic Empanadas

No matter what the stuffing or style is, love for the empanada is not a difficult one to understand. They are cheap, easy to eat, transportable, and versatile.

Empanadas look as good as they taste; perfect food for a picnic. Eating outdoors, spaced apart is probably one of the safest ways to gather during the ongoing pandemic crisis. The great thing about picnicking is that you can do it practically anywhere you can throw a blanket down. If you can’t make it to a park or field, your yard, porch or any flat surface with a little grass (or sand), some sun (& shade) will do.

Empanadas can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be served as appetizers or snacks (hot or cold), but they can easily make a full and satisfying main course.

The very basics for an empanada are a combination of three things; dough, filling and a cooking method. The dough can be made from wheat flour, cornmeal, mashed plantains, potatoes, yuca, sweet potatoes etc. and the fillings can consist of meat, fish or vegetables. The cooking method is usually to be baked or fried although some can be cooked on a griddle or grill.

According to food historians, empanadas with seafood filling first appeared in a 1520 cookbook, published during the Moorish invasions.

I was real interested to see what I could do to make some salmon empanadas taste special. We found they were good as a hot meal served with the remaining ‘sauce’ or eaten COLD for a picnic lunch.

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Salmon Picnic Empanadas
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Servings
6 inch EMPANADAS
Servings
6 inch EMPANADAS
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Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, cut in butter until mixture resembles both coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. Do NOT overwork dough.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least an hour.
Soy Sauce
  1. In a skillet, melt butter & sprinkle with flour. Allow to cook for a few minutes. In a bowl, whisk together broth, milk & soy sauce. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from skillet & set aside.
Filling
  1. In the skillet, sauté salmon filet in 1 Tbsp oil until JUST cooked. Remove to a dish. With a fork, 'shred' salmon; set aside.
  2. In the skillet, sauté vegetables in remaining Tbsp of oil for a couple of minutes. Add seasonings, shredded salmon, 1/3 cup prepared soy sauce & grated cheddar. Toss to combine; set aside to cool.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Divide chilled pastry into 10 balls. Roll each one in cornmeal. Place a ball between 2 sheets of plastic wrap & roll into a 6-inch circle.
  2. Divide filling into 10 portions. Place a portion on one side of the pastry circle, leaving about a 1/2-inch border (on filled side). With your fingertips, moisten edge of pastry with a bit of milk or water. Flip opposite side over filling & press edges together to enclose it well. Use a fork to make the classic look.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Repeat with remaining pastry & filling. Lay empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pastry is baked & slightly browned.

Guacamole Beef Burgers on Portobello ‘Buns’

CELEBRATING HERTIAGE DAY!

In 1974, the first Monday of August was made an official provincial holiday to recognize and celebrate the varied cultural heritage of Albertans. Businesses can choose whether or not to recognize the day as a general holiday, which most do.

Our choice of meal for today are some special beef burgers on Portobello buns. Mushrooms are often cooked and served as a meat substitute in today’s ‘plant based’ society. Large Portobello mushrooms are the general size and shape of hamburger buns so using them to sub for buns seems only logical. I guess you could say they are the earth’s natural burger bun!

I have fond memories of my first introduction to a Portobello ‘burger‘. It was in the quaint little village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, located about 190 km (120 miles) from San Francisco.

Some 35 years ago, actor Clint Eastwood, was elected mayor of Carmel for a two-year term. During that time he opened a restaurant/bar there called the ‘Hogs Breath Inn’. You had to enter it through a long cobblestone alley/corridor. The outdoor patio was nestled between the restaurant and the bar. A massive wall mural and numerous stone fireplaces all added tremendously to the wonderful ambiance. It was here that I first tasted a Portobello Mushroom Burger.

This version , the Portobello mushroom seemed to have been marinated and then grilled on a barbecue. On top of it were some battered onion rings, lettuce and tomato. All of the came in a grilled ciabatta bun with pickles and a side dish of your choice.

In the case of today’s blog recipe, we are using the mushroom cap as the bun. The guacamole is a great accompaniment to the beef burgers along with smoked Gouda cheese, tomatoes and the mushroom ‘buns’.

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Guacamole Beef Burgers on Portobello 'Buns'
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SERVINGS
Ingredients
Guacamole
Servings
SERVINGS
Ingredients
Guacamole
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Instructions
Portobello Caps
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. & place rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with foil paper & set aside.
  2. Brush the mushroom caps (top & bottom) with Italian dressing & place them, gills side up , on the lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes then flip them over & bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  3. When mushrooms are ready & the juices have been released, remove them from the baking sheet. Place them on a wire to drip off a bit.
Guacamole
  1. On a piece of plastic wrap, mash avocado with lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro. Fold plastic wrap over guacamole & set aside in fridge.
Beef Burgers
  1. Preheat barbecue grill (or roast burgers in oven).
  2. In a bowl, combine all burger ingredients & mix well. Divide beef mixture into 4 equal parts & shape into patties. Grill patties 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Divide cheese between patties & allow to melt.
Assembly
  1. Top each of the 4 mushroom caps with some guacamole, a burger patty & tomato slices. These are definitely the kind of 'burger' you want to eat with a fork & knife. Of course you could always squeeze the whole thing in a ciabatta bun!