A simple vegetarian lunch with big flavors
With their rich, earthy flavor and hearty texture, juicy Portobello mushrooms are a great, inexpensive alternative to meat. For an easy yet delicious vegetarian lunch, try these smoky grilled mushrooms topped with a homemade herby pesto crust.
This dish is perfect as a starter, a side dish, or served with salad and rice for a more substantial main course. Or, if you’re not looking for a completely vegetarian version, try topping them with some grilled bacon or poached eggs for a tasty and nutritious weekend brunch.
Health benefits of mushrooms
Mushrooms are a common feature of many vegetarian diets, thanks to their sturdy meat-like texture and filling properties. They are also nutritional powerhouses, packed with plant-based protein and fiber.
Mushrooms also contain health-boosting antioxidants including B vitamins, which can help to increase energy levels, and selenium, which supports a healthy immune system. The phytonutrients in mushrooms can also help to lower cholesterol and promote heart health by supporting healthy blood circulation and blood pressure.
Mushrooms can of course be eaten raw, but grilling them is actually thought to increase their nutritional value, when compared to other forms of cooking. If you want to give them an extra boost, try placing them upside down in direct sunlight for an hour or two before cooking. This technique is thought to boost the vitamin D content.
How to make your own pesto
In this recipe, we’ve paired our grilled mushrooms with a delicious, garlicky homemade basil pesto. While shop-bought pesto can be great, it’s very easy to make your own, and it means you can reduce the oil and salt content substantially.
To make pesto, just combine herbs, nuts, cheese, and garlic in a food processor. You can vary the combinations – for example, in our recipe we’ve used the traditional line-up of basil, pine nuts, and parmesan, but you could swap the basil for rocket, parsley, or cilantro, and swap the pine nuts for walnuts or brazil nuts. Add extra garlic if you prefer, and experiment to find your ideal mix.
The strong flavor goes a long way so you don’t need to use much on each mushroom. Make extra and save left overs in the fridge in an airtight container. It will keep for about a week. Then, simply add to chicken, spread on sandwiches or spoon over salad to bring your weekday lunches to life.
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Homemade Basil Pesto (serves 2)
- 8 medium-sized Portobello mushrooms
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small bunch of fresh basil leaves
- 3 Tbsp pine nuts
- 3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove of garlic
- Seasoning to taste
- Pre-heat the oven grill to 325ºF.
- Meanwhile, put the olive oil, basil, pine nuts, parmesan, and garlic in a small food processor and blend until you have a consistent texture. Taste and adjust quantities as required, then set aside.
- Wash the mushrooms carefully to remove any dirt and rough dry with some kitchen paper.
- Arrange the mushrooms gill side up on a foil tray and spoon around ½ Tbsp of pesto onto each one.
- Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top and put in the oven on the top shelf.
- Grill for around 15-20 minutes, until the pesto is bubbling and the mushrooms are tender.
- Serve immediately with a simple green salad.
- If the pesto is too dry, add a little extra oil to create a smoother texture. Conversely, if it’s too runny, you can always add some extra basil or even some spinach leaves to soak up the moisture. It’s best to start with less oil and add more as needed.
- Note that the mushrooms will shrink a little when grilled, so you may need more per person than you think. Eight medium-sized Portobello mushrooms provides reasonable portions for two people as a main course, when served with salad. If you are using larger mushrooms, you’d probably just need four between two.
- Always wipe mushrooms thoroughly before cooking, to remove any earthy residue or grit. Do not wash them under a tap because they are extremely absorbent and will become soggy.
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Recipe via Institute for Integrative Nutrition.