Philly cheesesteak alternative: stuffed portobello sandwich
An open-faced stuffed portobello sandwich with your choice of cheese packs flavor you can savor and also provides nutrition.
Like Philadelphia itself, there is a lot to love about the city's signature sandwich: the cheesesteak.
But that delicious combination of beef, onions and cheese isn't the sort of thing you want to pack away every day, unless you're looking to pack on pounds. So I decided to see if I could make a healthier sandwich inspired by the cheesesteak but a bit more suited to the everyday.
I started by swapping out the beef in favor of that most steaklike of mushrooms, the portobello. Actually, it's just the roomy cap of the portobello, filled to the brim with roasted red peppers, grilled scallions, olives and mushroom trimmings, then topped with melted provolone cheese.
Finally, the whole thing is set on a slice of grilled rustic bread coated with a thin layer of rosemary mayonnaise. It might be meatless, but it's hearty. And portobellos are full of nutrients.
But these big mushrooms have to be cleaned before they can be savored. Start by removing the dark gills on the underside, lightly scraping them out with a teaspoon. Then simply rinse both sides of the cap under cold running water to remove any dirt. Some people advise against rinsing, preferring to wipe away the dirt with a damp cloth to prevent the mushrooms from getting waterlogged. But a quick rinse doesn't harm them, and it's quicker and more thorough than wiping them clean. Just pat the caps dry afterward so they'll be able to absorb the marinade.
Topping-wise, I've gone the Mediterranean route, but you're welcome to substitute the toppings of your choice. Maybe you'll want to grill and chop up some complementary mushrooms, such as shiitake, and put them on top. Maybe you'll opt to top it off with grilled broccoli or onions. Similarly, if you're not crazy about provolone, you can swap in thin slices of mozzarella, cheddar or Italian fontina. Finally, if you don't like mayo on your sandwiches, don't use it. Dijon mustard works nicely.
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OPEN-FACED STUFFED PORTOBELLO SANDWICHES
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
4 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills discarded
½ cup light mayonnaise
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
½ cup medium chopped jarred roasted red peppers
½ cup pitted black olives, medium chopped
6 large scallions, bottoms trimmed
Olive oil cooking spray
4 slices rustic whole-grain bread
4 thin slices provolone cheese (about 3 ounces total)
Heat the grill to medium.
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, vinegar, olive oil and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Brush the marinade on both sides of the mushrooms, then transfer them to a zip-close plastic bag, along with any remaining marinade. Let them marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and rosemary, then season with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, combine the peppers and olives, then season with pepper. Set aside.
Spray the scallions with the cooking spray and grill them, turning often, until they are charred on the edges and crisp tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them to a cutting board and let them cool slightly. Medium chop the scallions and add them to the bowl with the peppers and olives.
Mist the bread with cooking spray, then grill it until it is lightly toasted on both sides. Set aside.
Grill the mushrooms, gill sides down, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn them over and grill the second side until tender when pierced with a knife, another 3 to 4 minutes. Spoon a quarter of the olive-pepper mixture evenly on top of each mushroom. Top with a slice of cheese, cover the grill and cook until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
Spread the mayonnaise mixture on each piece of bread. Transfer each mushroom to one slice of bread. Cut in half and serve right away.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories (230 calories from fat, 61 percent of total calories); 26g fat (7g saturated, 0g trans fats); 35mg cholesterol; 26g carbohydrates; 5g fiber; 6g sugar; 12g protein; 1,060mg sodium.