Meat-Free Cookout

Burgers: an All-American classic. I had been craving a Shake Shack burger since I returned to the city in January, but I had fought the craving because I’m on a semi-pageant diet so I can fit into my gown when I give up my crown next month. I no longer had to fight the craving thanks to week’s recipes, though. Notice recipeS because this week was a whole meal!! I was finally going to satisfy my burger craving with Portobello Burgers with Green Sauce and Smoke Mozzarella. Now, as one can tell be the title of this post, there was no meat in this burger…the burger itself was a portobello mushroom cap. The side dish to the entree was a Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad. I must not be a true American because I had never had any sort of pasta salad before. Tonight was a night of firsts.

I split this adventure up into two days. For those of you who follow my blog, you know I usually cook on Sunday’s. But after going out four nights in a row this past weekend I needed a recovery day… I was beat. So, yesterday on a very rainy Tuesday, I decided to pick up my ingredients. I left my dorm around 3:15 and headed down to Trader Joe’s. Wow, it was like a completely different store than it usually is. I had never seen the place so deserted or so stocked with food. What made my trip even better was that I was able to pick up all but four of the ingredients. Trader Joe’s…my faith has been restored in you. Also shout out to the guy that told my I had the cheeriest face he had seen all day (:

I finished my shopping at Fairway, and it made me so glad that I had gone to Trader Joe’s first. I only bought four items at Fairway and it was $15!!! My bill at Trader Joe’s was like $35 and I got a ton of food. Bye, bye money….but the money is going towards a good cause: my hungry stomach.

That was the end of adventure part one, so lets fast forward to today: Wednesday. Wednesday’s are my least favorite day of the week because I have class from 9-6. The only thing that got me through today was knowing that I would be cooking tonight. While I was waiting for Nicolette to come over, I thought I’d get all the food out and *attempt* to open all the jars. To my amazement, I actually had the strength to open the olives and capers…even though I got caper juice all over me. Yuck.

Nicolette came to my place at 7:30 and we got cooking. As always, we start out by chopping everything that needs chopped. I gave Nicolette the onion (because I’m evil and didn’t want to cry) and I got punished because chopping the olives burned my hands. Why? I have no clue. I guess karma. Also, chopping artichoke hearts was not my cup of tea.

Once we got past all the chopping, it was time to move to the stove. Nicolette was on pasta duty, and I took care of the mushrooms. We thought we were doing a pretty good job…but soon enough the kitchen filled with smoke. Surely the fire alarm went off, right? WRONG! My room mate has a little fan in our room so we quickly grabbed that to get some circulation in the kitchen. I know, we’re smarties.

I had to add balsamic vinegar to the mushrooms to give them a nice little glaze, and DAMN the balsamic burned my eyes. Karma number 2 for me since I made Nicolette chop the onion.Thankfully, they continued to cook nicely so I went on to make the sauce.

We made the sauce in my food processor. Now, let me tell you about my ratchet food processor. I received a gift card to Kohl’s when I moved to college. I had always wanted a food processor and I found one that was small and perfect for the dorm, not to mention it was red so it matched with the kitchen perfectly. Well, it arrived and I excitedly unpacked it. The top had to lock into place before it would turn on. I locked it into place, turned it on, and nothing happened. The part that was supposed to push a button down to lock it was not properly manufactured so I went through this long process to exchange it for another one. So, my new one comes in a week later and the same freaking thing happened. I was not about to deal with sending it back again so I made do. I cut a piece of cardboard from the box it came in, shoved it into the button and taped it down. Now it works fine, but it is ratchet as hell.

The last thing we put together was the pasta salad. The pasta took forever too cook on my little stove burners. One of the burners on my stove is STILL broken after 4 months. Maintenance has been called numerous times but has never come. They’re ruining my cooking groove, man.

Everything was finally ready after an hour. You know, I’m starting to realize these are more like 1 hour meals than 30 minute meals…

Anyway, here comes the moment of truth…3..2..1! Oh my God. That burger…that mushroom…whatever you want to call it, it was ugh. No words. I couldn’t even tell it wasn’t meat. It was so savory and every bite just melted in my mouth. The mozzarella on top was heavenly and the green sauce added the perfect twang. As for the pasta salad, it was alright. Not too bad for the first pasta salad I ever had, but the burger completely out-shined it. I would be content eating that burger for the rest of my life. I might have even liked it better than a meat burger.

My room mate Alexis walked in and asked what we made, so I told her and she said she loves mushrooms, so I let her have one. She made it a few bites in, then was utterly confused. She thought she was eating a burger with mushrooms on it, not an actual mushroom. Her reaction was pretty funny.

A few other friends came over to have some pasta salad. I had one more burger but I was not giving that up, no way. That’s going to be my dinner tomorrow. Everyone who tried the pasta salad loved it. I guess I have to have some when I’m not focused on the burger, maybe then I’ll like it more.

Let’s see, I have to give the Portobello Burgers ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts because it is three hours after I had my last bite and my mouth is still watering at how amazing it was. Truly one of the best burgers I have ever eaten in my life. I’m going to give the Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad ♥♥ (2) hearts. Like I said earlier, I think I would’be enjoyed the pasta dish more if my taste buds hadn’t already orgasmed from the burger. This meat-free cookout as a whole was a huge success. I’m starting to feel like being a vegetarian wouldn’t be that hard…who am I kidding, I can’t live without meat. But Rachael Ray, the fact that I am questioning my stance as being an omnivore shows that you’re doing something right with your vegetarian dishes. Bravo!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

P.S. I really need to try to take better pictures of the food for you guys, my pictures never look appetizing…sorry!

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