Once in a while, I’ll get an idea for a new dish. I’ll be going about my day, editing, or writing, or doing laundry, when a lightbulb goes on in my brain. Sometimes it’ll be an image of a finished dish. Sometimes it’ll be a thought that ingredient A might taste good mixed with ingredient B. On rare occasions, an image of a finished dish will invade my brain and I’ll also be able to imagine what that finished dish tastes like. I had one of those moments this week, where I could picture a grilled portobello mushroom topped with asparagus pesto and a poached egg, and I instantly knew it would be a tasty combination of earthy mushroom, fresh asparagus and creamy eggs.
After a trip to the St. Lawrence Market this past weekend to pick up some fresh portobello mushrooms, asparagus and free-range eggs, I set about transforming my mental image into reality. I’m happy to say that this both looked and tasted exactly as I imagined. Jenny agreed, calling the dish one of the best vegetarian meals I’ve made (not exactly high praise, considering 99.8 percent of my kitchen creations contain meat… but I knew she was being sincere). And while I’m pretty much the opposite of a vegetarian, a great thing about this dish is how much it resembles steak and eggs in taste and texture, with the meaty, smoky portobello being reminiscent of grilled beef. If we ever decide to make Meatless Monday a regular feature in our house, this ‘vegetarian steak and eggs’ is definitely going into my regular rotation.
Grilled Portobello with Asparagus Pesto and Poached Egg
For the asparagus pesto:
1 large bunch of asparagus (2 small if thinner stalks), woody stems removed and the ‘good’ part snapped in half
1 shallot cut in half lengthwise
20 basil leaves, chopped
1/4 C grated grana padano or parmesan cheese
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C water
1/4 C of pine nuts (toasted or not)
Zest of half a lemon
Steam asparagus and shallots briefly, just a couple of minutes until tender but not soft. (Steaming the shallot is optional; I chose to do so because I wanted the flavour to be milder). Add steamed asparagus, shallots, and all other ingredients except water to a blender or food processor. Pulse several times until ingredients are chopped and desired consistency is achieved. Add water as neccessary and blend longer for a smoother consistency. This recipe makes enough pesto to generously coat two large portobello mushrooms, plus leave some leftover to mix with pasta (which was also delicious, by the way).
For grilled portobello mushrooms:
Preheat BBQ until it reaches a temperature of about 400 C.
Wipe portobellos with a damp paper towel to remove any loose dirt. Brush both sides of portobellos with olive oil, and grill for 5-6 minutes per side.
For poached eggs:
As much as I love cooking, cooking eggs is another story. While I’ve nearly mastered slow-cooked scrambled eggs, poaching them is always an adventure for me (fortunately, they turned out this time!). Instead of taking my advice, check out this link for tips on the standard approach to perfect poached eggs, or this post for an innovative poaching method I’m definitely going to try next time.
To assemble the dish, lay a grilled portobello on each plate, top-side down. cover inside of portobello with a generous amount of asparagus pesto. Top with a poached egg. Grate grana padano or parmesan on top, and hit it with a grind of pepper.