BY MELISSA D'ARABIAN, Associated Press
May shepherds in the season of the backyard barbecue, and for us that means one thing: burgers. Let me back up and say that just about anything I make on the grill in warmer months, I also make regularly inside on the stovetop. And while I do love a flat-top-smooshed burger with its crusty, dangly edges, the backyard barbecue burger remains in a league of its own.
Our family's burger bonanzas are a little legendary in our social circle (OK, so maybe with just my kids, nieces and nephews). The herby-garlicky sauce I make, called "magic" sauce by those in the know, is particularly popular. So when three of my extended family members went vegetarian, my burger-grilling game suffered. I did what any well-intentioned-but-misguided carnivore would do: I bought some frozen veggie burgers from the grocery store and called it a day. Now, to be fair, some of those veggie burgers are downright tasty. But, homemade-with-love-magic-sauce-worthy? Not so much. So, I upped my veggie burger game. While I do love the black-bean, quinoa or legume-based versions I've created over the years, the simplest veggie burger of all remains a family favorite: the giant portobello mushroom cap. Bonus: This dish is low-calorie (leaving wiggle room for cheese, sauce and a bun), and it's nearly foolproof—no falling apart and disappearing into the flames between the grill grates.
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I used cilantro in this version because it pairs nicely with the baked corn tortilla chips (just a few go a long way to add satisfying crunch), but feel free to experiment with other herbs, such as basil, or mint. Even carnivores might be converted.
GRILLED PORTOBELLO BURGERS WITH CILANTRO GARLIC SAUCE AND TORTILLA CHIPS
Start to Finish: 25 minutes
For the sauce
1/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 scallion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce, if vegetarian)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water, if needed
For the burger:
4 large portobello mushroom caps, cleaned and gills removed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
olive oil in a mister
Salt and pepper
4 slices gouda cheese (or other favorite melting cheese)
4 large slices of tomato, or 8 small slices
1 cup peppery greens, such as arugula or other peppery green mix
12 baked tortilla chips
4 whole grain hamburger buns (not oversized)
To make the sauce, blend all the sauce ingredients in the blender until mixed, but with small flecks of green. Pour into a small bowl and chill, up to 3 days.
Heat grill to medium high. Brush the mushroom caps with the balsamic vinegar, spray liberally with olive oil, and salt and pepper. Grill the mushroom caps for 3 minutes on the smooth side and then flip. Top with cheese and grill, covered, another 3 minutes, until mushroom is tender (but not floppy) and cheese is melted. Meanwhile, toast the buns for 1-2 minutes on the cut side, or until barely golden. Place peppery greens on bottom of bun and then tomato. Remove the mushroom caps from the grill and place directly on the tomato. Top the still-hot mushroom with a couple of tablespoons of the sauce. Top with 3 chips on each burger and then the bun.
Nutrition information per serving: 357 calories; 175 calories from fat; 15 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 23 mg cholesterol; 626 mg sodium; 45 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 15 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, "Supermarket Healthy."
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Banner image: This Sunday, May 8, 2016 photo shows a grilled portobello burger in Coronado, Calif. For this veggie burger, the secret is in the sauce. Portobellos make for a tastier choice than frozen options. (AP Photo/Melissa D'arabian)