Grilled Portobello Caps with Tzatziki and Tomato Kale Salad

Guys, I’m getting anxious for summer. I think all of us up here in New England probably are. For many of us, our summer plans will look quite a bit different than they did before the pandemic. However, there are still small things we can do to make our lives feel a bit more normal, and to help infuse that easy, summer-vibe back into our cooped-up routines. Therefore, for today’s recipe we’re breaking out the grill!

Before we had our trusty gas grill, we had a mini-Weber, otherwise known as Smoky Joe. Whenever the mood struck us, we would bring Smoky Joe out into the parking lot of our apartment in Boston, pour in some charcoal, and grill up some deliciousness. In fact, if you have a small outdoor space or even access to a park around the block, I’d highly recommend investing in your own Smoky Joe. They’re super cheap, easy to use, and you can take them basically anywhere.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a grill for this recipe, though. It can easily be made in an oven, and I’ll give you the workaround a bit further down.

I developed this vegetarian (yes, there is a vegan option) recipe for those of us who want to lighten up our grilling routine, because believe me, veggies are every bit as at-home on a grill as meat is. However, I also wanted this dish to ride that line between being very fresh and light, but still satisfying, protein-rich, and extra flavorful. Thus, these delicious, grilled portobello caps drizzled in cool, tangy, and creamy tzatziki sauce were born. We serve them on top of a beautiful and colorful bed of cherry tomatoes and kale marinated in apple cider vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil.

Ok, folks. Let’s break out the grills, ovens, and salad spinners, and commence the tastiness!

In the world of plant-based proteins, mushrooms are a standout option. Maybe I’d be a traitor if I said that I like them better than tofu, but they are certainly a close second.

Ryan and I were recently having a conversation about the one dish that defines us as cooks. I decided that his would probably be pancakes, because no matter what I do, I just can’t make them as perfectly as he does (Hint: I think @ryanponic needs to do a crossover post for the test kitchen 😉 ). He decided that mine would be anything with mushrooms. Can you all tell, given that more than half the recipes I’ve posted so far contain mushrooms? Sorry guys, really. 🙂 I can’t help myself.

For this recipe, we keep the mushroom seasonings simple because the ‘shrooms themselves are already so flavorful. Just put them in a bowl and coat them on both sides with some salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. A quick disclaimer: normally I would use the giant portobello caps as they hold up better on the grill, but due to the unusual grocery conditions as a result of the pandemic, I was only able to get my hands on the medium-sized portobellos.

Making sure that the olive oil is evenly distributed over the mushrooms is essential to the success of the recipe. It will help them get nice and browned on the grill, keep them from sticking to the grates, and seal all the good juices inside. So, get those coated and set them aside to let those flavors meld while you make the tzatziki and tomato kale salad.

Now, on to the salad. I love raw kale. Maybe I’m a minority here, but I find that if you chop it finely enough, the raw leaves are surprisingly tender and give your digestive system some fiber to grab onto, particularly if you have any food sensitivities that impact your digestion. If I’m making a raw kale dish, I prefer to use curly kale rather than Tuscan kale as it is a little bit more delicate.

Therefore, to make the salad, slice your cherry tomatoes in half and toss them in a big bowl. Finely slice the kale, removing the stems, and add the sliced leaves to the bowl with the tomatoes. Toss them with a pour of apple cider vinegar, just a dash of olive oil, and some salt and pepper.

Isn’t that gorgeous?

Next, you’re going to make your tzatziki! Tzatziki is a great sauce/condiment to keep in your toolbox (aka: the fridge). It’s fantastic on steak or fish, used as a salad dressing, drizzled over pan-fried tofu, or apparently, poured over grilled mushrooms. Leave some comments below, because I would love to know how you all use it!

Pro-tip: if you want a really rich and delicious tzatziki, salt your cucumbers beforehand. After you’ve chopped them finely, toss them into a colander and throw in a pinch of salt. This will draw out the water and leave you with that signature, cool cucumber flavor without all the wateriness that will dilute your end result.

When the salted cukes have rested for about half an hour, take a paper towel or clean dish rag and pat them dry, toss them to the opposite side, and pat them dry on that side, too.

Next, add your finely chopped dill, combine that with the juice of one lemon. Then, add your drained, salted cucumbers and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt. If you’re vegan, sub the dairy Greek yogurt with plain Kite Hill almond yogurt or plain Forager “Cashewgurt.” These are fantastic non-dairy options made by people who have created products that are truly artisan. They can be difficult to find in standard grocery store chains, but if you’re fortunate enough to live near a Whole Foods, Wegmans, or Hannaford, you can find their products there. If you’re not from the northeast or don’t have a Whole Foods nearby, please let me know if you’ve been able to find these or other wonderful non-dairy yogurt options in your local store. I’d love to be able to direct people to the right places.

Combine all these ingredients and mix thoroughly into a smooth, velvety sauce. Put that into the fridge for now while you grill your mushrooms.

‘Shroom time!

Fire up your grill to medium heat. If using an oven, preheat to 400°. For you oven chefs out there, grease a medium glass baking dish with some olive oil or cooking spray. Place the mushrooms smooth-side down in the pan. Bake the mushrooms for 12-15 minutes, depending on how soft you like them. I like a little bit of bite to my portobellas, but take them far enough into their cooking time to make them tender and extremely moist.

For grill masters, place the mushroom caps smooth-side down directly onto a grill that has been lightly pre-greased with cooking spray. Flip them over to the gill side after 7 minutes. Let them chill out on the gill-side for 7 more minutes, and then flip them back over to the smooth-side. If they are still too firm, continue cooking for about 2-3 more minutes. Then, remove them from the grill and get ready to plate!

For serving, lay out some tomato kale salad on your favorite plate and then lay the mushroom caps over that.

Then, drizzle whatever amount of tzatziki suits your fancy over the salad and shrooms. And boom! You have a magical marriage of flavors just in time for your summer menu!

Pro tip before I go: taste everything you can as you are cooking. I’ve dialed the seasonings of all my dishes to be as neutral as possible in order to appeal to a wide variety of palette preferences, so act as your own quality control in the kitchen and find your personal flavor!

Grilled Portobello Caps with Tzatziki and Tomato Kale Salad

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

For the grilled mushrooms:

  • 2-3 large portobello mushroom caps, stem removed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the tomato and kale salad:

  • 2 packed cups curly kale, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the tzatziki sauce:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To assemble: Preheat oven or grill to 400°.

In a large bowl, coat mushrooms with oil and salt and pepper on all sides. Marinate for 15 minutes.

To make the tomato and kale salad, place all salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Set aside to let the flavors incorporate while you make the tzatziki.

Assemble the tzatziki by combining all sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Stir to thoroughly combine, adjusting seasoning to taste.

If using a grill, place mushrooms directly on lightly oiled grill rack, cap side down. Let rest for 5-7 minutes or until mushrooms are just beginning to soften. Flip the mushrooms over to the gill side and continue to grill for another 5-7 minutes, or until they become brown and tender. Remove from the grill and place them on a clean plate.

If using an oven, place mushrooms in a lightly oiled glass pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until mushrooms have softened and browned.

To assemble the plates: place salad on plates first, top with mushroom caps, then drizzle with desired amount of tzatziki.

Take a few deep breaths today, slow down, and enjoy the simple things in life along with us.

<3 Karl, Ryan, and LM