Portabella Blue Cheese Burgers

Burgers on the grill might be the one food that people most associate with summer. But not all burgers are created equal. In fact, not all burgers are made with meat.

Granted, there’s something about a meat burger, be it beef, venison, elk or a combination of any or all them, that makes them very appealing. Right now, the burger meat in our freezer is a combination of elk and ground beef. All in all, it’s about 90 percent lean, with just the right amount of fat to hold the burgers to together.

I’m not averse to having a burger that doesn’t contain meat. I’ve eaten my share of turkey burgers and have found them quite tasty. But my favorite meatless alternative is the portabella mushroom burger, which is naturally low in calories and can be grilled or broiled.

The portabella looks like an overgrown version of a button mushroom. The best ones for burgers are about 5 inches or so in diameter. We’ve had them occasionally on the Foreman but never on our gas grill. And we’ve found them great when they’re cooked with a little balsamic vinegar.

Here’s a recipe in which the “gills” are removed from the portabellas so they won’t darken the blue cheese topping. A few caramelized red onions enhances the burger even more.

Portabella Blue Cheese Burgers
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 cloves garlic, peeled, pressed
4 large (about 4 to 5 inches in diameter) portabella mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed
1 large red onion, peeled, thinly sliced (2½ to 3 cups)
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup ruby port or favorite sweet red wine
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns or favorite bun or roll
1 cup arugula
4 thick slices tomato
In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar and garlic. Brush the mixture all over the mushrooms and let stand for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add red onion and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add water and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is browned and very soft, about 15 minutes. Add port and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Remove from the heat and cover.
Preheat grill to medium.
Sprinkle the mushrooms with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Grill, gill side down, for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn over and top each with 2 tablespoons cheese. Grill until the mushrooms are tender, 4 to 5 minutes more.
Toast buns. Divide the onions among the mushrooms. Serve (cheese side up) on buns with arugula and tomato slices.
Note: Gorgonzola is a good substitute for blue cheese. You can also use a milder cheese such as fontina or asiago.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 339 calories, 45 percent of calories from fat), 17 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 37 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 702 milligrams sodium, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.