Mushroom Pesto Sliders

So it’s been more than a year and John and I are still going strong with our vegetarian/sometimes vegan lifestyle.  We have learned how to adapt our grocery shopping habits (fresh produce is a must); we have learned which restaurants to embrace (thank God for Thai and Vietnamese food) and which ones to avoid (say goodbye to most chain restaurants); I have learned a ton about baking substitutes (apple cider vinegar: baking soda is a godsend), nutritional yeast and how to make homemade vegan mozzarella cheese.

Honestly, what continues to be the most challenging aspect of a vegetarian lifestyle is cooking for my foodie, meat-loving friends and family members.  Making something meat-free and delicious for some of my friends with more discerning palettes has proven to be a fun challenge.

Every Tuesday night, my community group of 20/30somethings from church has a different food theme for the evening.  We’ve had everything from Nacho Night (which yielded everything from chili con carne to Pad Thai nachos) to simply Meat Night  (my culinarily-gifted sister made filet mignon with blue cheese bechamel that night).

This past Tuesday, the theme was  simply “Burgers.”  I decided to try out Chef Chloe Coscarelli’s recipe for Mushroom Pesto Sliders from her “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen” book.

Chloe–as usual–did not disappoint.  These sliders were surprisingly “meaty”, the pesto was fresh and full of flavor, and the toasted Hawaiian sweet roll bun was the perfect vehicle for this treat.  My meat-eating friend Andy paid me the highest compliment a meat-eater can give to a vegetarian: he said he enjoyed out of all of the sliders and burgers that were cooked that evening (most of which involved meat), he enjoyed the mushroom pesto sliders the best!  Even meat-lovers will enjoy these sliders.

*Note, I doubled Chloe’s portion size and it yielded 20 sliders, which was perfect for a group of about 15.  I found her original portion size to be closer to 10 sliders, rather than 16. I also found it much easier to make the pesto, caramelized onions and slider patties the day before and refrigerate.  That way, when it was time to make them all I had to do was pan fry the patties and then build each sandwich.

Here ya go!  Choe’s original recipe, plus some notes from me in which I slightly adjusted to fit my needs.

Mushroom Pesto Sliders

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Sliders (makes approximately 10 sliders)
1 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
115 oz. can of lentils, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour, plus a little more for making the patties unsticky
1 teaspoons of dried basil
1 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Caramelized Onions
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 sweet onion, sliced thin
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Basil Pesto (combine fresh basil, lemon juice, pine nuts, olive oil, 1 garlic clove, sea salt and pepper in a food processor)
Mini-buns or dinner rolls (I used Hawaiian sweet rolls), toasted or grilled for 1 minute in the pan
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced

For Caramelized Onions:
1) In a large skillet, heat oil and saute onion over medium heat until tender and slightly caramelized, 20-30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

For Sliders:
1) In a large non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and saute mushrooms until soft. Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes.  Transfer mushrooms to a food processor.

2) Add lentils, flour, basil, salt and pepper to processor and pulse until it just comes together.  Refrigerate until chilled.

3) Using the palms of your hands, form the mixture into mini patties, 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.

4) Heat the reserved skillet over medium-high heat and fry patties in batches adding more oil as needed.  Let the patties cook 3-5 minutes on each side or until nicely browned. *Note – Because this mixture can be very sticky I found it actually easier to form the patties more into a 1 1/2 inch diameter ball, fry it on one side and then flip the ball over and smash it into a patty.  

5) Assemble sliders by layering the patty, basil pesto, caramelized onions and sliced tomato on the buns. I put party toothpicks through the center to hold them better during transportation.

6) Serve it up and enjoy!

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