Barbecue grill a medium large portobello mushroom on both sides. Don’t add spices or salt and pepper until it’s cooked. Just spritz with olive oil. Cook on medium high heat, lid closed. It will be ready in minutes.

Now pretend that each mushroom is a half burger bun. Build your burger the same way you would with a meat patty, using the mushroom as a base. Top with sliced tomatoes, sliced grilled Spanish onion, lettuce, cheese slices, relish, chili sauce, mustard, ketchup and maybe even sour cream. Add whatever other toppings you would prefer.

Top with a second portobello mushroom. Done. Serve as you would a hamburger.

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If you can find a few giant size portobello mushrooms at the market, prepare them the same way, but you will have a faux quesadilla. Cut the giant portobello burger in pie-shaped wedges and serve.

The only difference: you will need a knife and fork to move the burger, or quesadilla-like wedges, from the plate to your mouth.

These mushrooms taste a lot like grilled steak. If you haven’t tried them, they are wonderful beyond words.

Make yourself a treat. By the way, if you are cooking for one, this is a terrific personal size meal. And the burger even packs well in a container to take to work, although it is better fresh and hot from the grill. It’s perfectly edible at room temperature.

This recipe is doable in all seasons. Accompanied by a hot bowl of vichyssoise or your favourite soup, this combo makes a full sized well-balanced dinner for family or guests.


Portobello sandwiches, french onion soup and strawberry desserts 

Spritz with olive oil and grill portobello mushrooms on high heat on a preheated barbecue.

Make a hungry man dinner sandwich using the large grilled mushrooms instead of bread.

Top one mushroom with roasted chopped mixed-colour bell peppers and grilled Spanish onions, chopped or sliced. A fat thick slice of beefsteak tomato from your own garden is a great addition, with a big crispy lettuce leaf.

Chopped garlic or oven roasted garlic creates a dream combo for some people.

In a stovetop pot, scald a cup of half and half cream. Let rise and fall three times. Turn down the heat and continue reducing the cream. Turn off the heat, stirring thickened cream so it doesn’t burn.

Add a half cup of your favourite blue cheese, broken into large pieces. Stir to incorporate. But leave some small lumps. Grind some black peppercorns. Remove the pan from heat. Let it sit briefly. The sauce will thicken and coat a spoon. If you have leftover sauce it will keep, airtight covered in the fridge for an extra day, to perhaps use on a real steak.

Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of the warm sauce over the roasted peppers and onions on the bottom portobello mushroom. If you like, put a little Dijon mustard on the tomato slice. Position the second portobello mushroom on top.

Now you have a delicious spectacular portobello sandwich. It tastes like steak.

To make a larger meal, as a side, serve giant crispy french fries or my special zucchini fries.

A french onion soup, topped with under the broiler yummy mozzarella cheese and sprinkled with miniature garlic baguette slices on the melted cheese, toasted until crunchy, will make for a memorable meal.

There is a terrific store bought product by Ace; in resealable bags, tiny baguette slices, in various flavours. The garlic one is very good.


Dessert

For dessert, serve light friendly frozen strawberries, prepared this way:

Strawberry crème: Sprinkle sugar to taste over quite-ripe chopped fresh strawberries, then cover with ordinary two per cent milk. Let stand a few minutes, then mash and stir.

Refrigerate. A chemical reaction takes place and the mixture begins to thicken. It’s even better the next day. Serve in stem glasses or in a shrimp cocktail glass with a bit of crushed ice in the base container part. Decorate with a sprig of mint and some fresh berries; any kind of berries.

Another great use for strawberries:

Strawberry semifreddo: Make the strawberries and cream mixture, as noted. Make extra. Leave in the fridge for a couple days, not longer. Covered, in a glass dish.

Stir to redistribute the sugar that may have gone to the bottom. Then put the berry mix in a metal dish or one that is freezer safe. Freeze until solid.

Place the container on the counter for about 20 minutes. You don’t want it to thaw, but it will get hard as a brick and you will think you can do nothing with it.

When you are able to remove the frozen mixture from the container, break or chop the frozen berry mix into a few large chunks. (I use a meat cleaver and a kitchen mallet, on a wooden board.)

Place in a food processor and whirr – pulse until a solid mush forms, sort of like ice cream thickness, scraping down the sides of the machine dish. Work quickly.

Place in, ideally, a metal container with a cover.  I use a plum pudding container that has a lock-on cover. Re-freeze. Now you have a semifreddo. You can use this dessert like an ice cream dish: call it a sherbet or a sorbet, or you can use it as a palette cleanser between courses.

For a celebration event – this spectacular strawberry dessert:

Try placing the mould upside-down on a large cake plate. Release the frozen mould. Cover with very stiff whipped cream and decorate with fresh berries (any kind), or try covering the mould with stiffly beaten egg white; then flambé with a portable gas flash torch at the table.

You can make the semifreddo in individual muffin tin trays and decorate each one individually.

Originally freeze the mixture in the muffin trays, whirr each one individually in a small bowl food processor and repack into the muffin trays. These keep in the freezer for a long, long time just like ice cream does. Now you have instant gourmet when company comes. The little semifreddos, drizzled with fruit puree are nice fresh treats.

From Lady Ralston’s kitchen: A Canadian contessa cooks.

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The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. Her ebook, Gourmet Cooking - at Home with Carolyne is available here for $5.99 US. Email Carolyne. Scroll down to the comments at each recipe column. Carolyne often adds complimentary "From Lady Ralston's Kitchen" additional recipes in the Recipes for Realtors Comments section at REM.

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