My 30-year old A/C and Grilled Portabello “Burgers”

We live in a two bedroom townhouse, and yes, it feels like we’re walking all over each other, but for several reasons we’re here for a few more years. We moved in between my last two law school finals three weeks before Turbo was born 5+ years ago with the intent to move in 3-5 years. Oops.

That said, my air conditioner is original (1980) and the design of our home makes circulation abysmal. We’re also sort of cheap  frugal, which translates into not running the A/C, thus making stove and oven use problematic. Somehow, the heat from those permeate our house within seconds, but the A/C can take all day to cool this place down – go figure.

And now that you have my HVAC history, you will understand why many of my upcoming posts have everything to do with our grill or outdoor cooking or un-cooking. On any given hot day, you might find a Crock Pot or a rice cooker going on the back deck, or the grill fired up to bake bread, grill pineapple, make pizza, cook up fajita veggies, or even make cobbler.

And, since vegan grilling seems to be an undiscovered art, I’m on my way to discover it. We’ve already covered some of the best vegan burgers on the planet, but they’re fussy and I don’t have time for fussy this summer. I need quick – super quick. And I need something that omnivore company can try without needing to go looking for bacon.

Enter the Grilled Portabello Mushroom Burger. Or is it Portabella? Nobody seems to agree, so we’ll not worry about it. Just eat it. It’s hearty, and meaty, and not trying to pretend it’s something else. Matt found the recipe and I veganized it, which didn’t take much effort. After three tries we still love them. Matt’s brave parents even ate them without complaint and confessed to liking them! So feel free to head to your cousin’s 4th of July barbeque with these in tow, and I promise even the most die-hard meat-eaters will look enviously in your direction. (And sorry the pictures are lousy – these deserve so, so much better.)

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Grilled Portabello Mushroom Burgers, Veganized!

  • 2 tablespoons brown spicy mustard
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (probably optional, but use 1-2 T, then add water to 1/2 c, then emulsify)
  • 1 teaspoon Real salt (local first!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo
  • Loaf of Somer’s Seeded Sandwich bread, sliced 1/2 -3/4″ thick – see modifications below
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • Lettuce – enough leaves to make it count
  • 1 tomato, sliced thin
  • Any other tasty veggies – roasted red pepper, sprouts, cukes – all would be tasty


Combine mustard, vinegar, oil or oil and water mixture. salt, pepper and hot sauce in blender, and whiz up until combined, Reserve two tablespoons of marinade and set aside. Place caps into a baking dish and pour remaining marinade over top. Use a brush to make sure all caps are covered with the marinade. Set aside and let marinate up to 2 hours, but 15 minutes will do.

Remove the portobellos from marinade and place gill side down on a preheated gas, electric or charcoal grill over medium-high heat. Grill 3 to 4 minutes per side – longer if mushrooms are super fresh, fat and juicy.

In a medium bowl combine 1/2 cup vegan mayo and the 2 tablespoons of reserved marinade.

Spread the flavored mayonnaise onto sliced bread and top with portobellos. Serve with sliced onion, lettuce and tomato.It will drip and be soggy, so lean over and keep a napkin handy!

My sweet Mods to Somer’s seeded sandwich bread:

Makes 2-9×5 loaves, a bit squat, but that’s okay. And seriously, this bread is so fast that it’s faster to make than to go to the store, especially with three kids! And cheaper since I don’t buy anything else…

Quick Sandwich Loaf


  • 4 C. whole wheat flour (I grind organic hard white wheat pretty fine, which keeps it light)
  • 2 C. unbleached organic all-purpose flour
  • Scant 1 T. active dry yeast
  • 2 heaped t. Real salt
  • 2 2/3 C. warm water
  • 3 T. vital wheat gluten (extra to make up for all-purpose flour instead of bread flour)
In your kneading apparatus or with your hands, combine flours, yeast, salt, vital wheat gluten and water. Knead for 10 minutes or until elastic and smooth. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two 9×5 loaf pans with parchment paper (like a sling) and spray the ends of the pans with non-stick spray. Divide in half and shape into two long skinny loaves, pressing them into the loaf pans so the dough is pushed into the corners and even. Let rest for 20 minutes. Brush top of loaves with a bit of olive oil, and using a serrated knife slash diagonally a few times across the top to keep it from breaking open while baking. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45, minutes or until crust is golden brown. You can also put some hot water in a pan in the oven to help it rise just a bit more – one of those no-knead artisan bread tricks. Remove from pans and let cool on cooling rack (you don’t want soggy bread). 

“There’s veggie meat is touching my strawberries!!!”

I have three kids, and that statement alone could sum up most of my life. It probably shouldn’t, but I haven’t figured that whole autonomy bit yet. Anyway, one of them turned five today which quite honestly I can’t believe, especially since he’s my oldest. Five doesn’t seem old until you start talking to him and suddenly it seems ancient – he is an old, articulate, intelligent, very emotional soul (that is currently wide awake and apparently having a bad dream – me thinks he just doesn’t want to go to bed).

But veggie meat touching his strawberries is not a laughing matter for him. For us, it was absolutely hilarious, and no, our laughter was NOT appreciated.

You may recall Somer’s “things that make me grin” post where she and I seemed to be living parallel lives. From that, I volunteered to make the vegan burgers from Scott Jurek’s two articles – one from Outside and one from Runner’s World. Oddly enough, they differed – who knew? I made the ones from Runner’s World because the recipe was easier to follow than the weird one printed out in Outside – it didn’t list the ingredients, was missing two of the ones from Runner’s world that I thought would make it better(nutritional yeast & paprika), and was white font on dark patterned paper which was hard to read. Okay, I like traditional recipe formats! I’m sorry!

Here is my critique:

First, make sure you have a food processor or your hand will get really tired. There is a lot going on in this recipe.

Second, like most vegan burgers, they don’t hold together particularly well, so make sure you have a good grip on them before you start eating because you probably won’t want to pick them up again if you put them down – they’re a bit messy. 

Third, for being a bit fussy to make, the recipe makes 12 burgers and they can be made in advance which is nice. In our house, is 3+ meals since my two youngest aren’t much for the burger thing yet. I have 8 frozen but can’t give you feedback on how they defrost yet. I’ll update when I make them next.

Fourth, this is a tasty burger and I might make them again when I have the patience and fewer distractions, but if you’re a relatively normal person and cook at a relatively normal rate, these should come together pretty quickly. I just get interrupted a lot.

I made no substitutions, served it on homemade artisan bread with vegan mayo, ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and red peppers – pretty tasty. The burgers aren’t very big – big enough, but not a substitute for your 1/2-lb monster burger.  Also, I let my mixture hang out in the fridge for almost two days before I shaped them up and tossed them on the grill and they held up great. Here’s the recipe, straight from the article:

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Scott Jurek’s Lentil-Mushroom Burgers

For any reluctant vegan who worries that nothing will ever replace the taste or texture of a juicy beef patty, consider the lentil burger. It might not matter so much that lentils are an excellent source of protein, that they are one of the fastest-cooking legumes, or that they are consumed in large quantities all over Europe, Asia and Africa (even Idaho!). What will impress you is how tender, juicy, and “meaty” they taste. I grew up grilling over campfires, and I know burgers. These are as delicious as they come. Sometimes I’ll even take a few patties with me on long training runs and races.

1 cup dried green lentils (2¼ cups cooked)
2¼ cups water
1 teaspoon dried parsley
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1¼ cups finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped walnuts
2 cups fine bread crumbs (see Note)
½ cup ground flax seed (flax seed meal)
3 cups finely chopped mushrooms
1½ cups destemmed, finely chopped kale, spinach, or winter greens
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika

In a small pot, bring lentils, water, parsley, 1 garlic clove, and ½ cup of onion to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 35 to 40 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the lentils are soft.

While the lentils are cooking, combine the walnuts, bread crumbs, and flax seed in a bowl. Add the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and paprika and mix well.

Sauté the remaining onion, remaining garlic, the mushrooms, and the greens in the oil for 8 to 10 minutes, then set aside. Remove the lentils from the heat, add the vinegar and mustard, and mash with a potato masher or wooden spoon to a thick paste.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the lentils, sautéed veggies, and bread crumb mixtures, and mix well. Cool in the refrigerator for 15 to 10 minutes or more.

Using your hands, form burger patties to your desired size and place on waxed paper. Lightly fry in a seasoned skillet, or broil or grill until lightly browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Extra uncooked patties can be frozen on wax paper in plastic bags or wrapped individually in aluminum foil, making for a quick dinner or wholesome burger for the next barbeque.

Makes a dozen 4-inch diameter burgers.

Note: To make the bread crumbs, you’ll need about half a loaf of day-old bread (I use Ezekiel 4:9). Slice the bread, then tear or cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces and chop in a food processor for 1 to 2 minutes, until a fine crumb results. The walnuts can also be chopped in the food processor with the bread.