Hey everyone, meet my new favorite comfort food, The Portobello Philly Cheese Steak Bowl. PPCSB, meet everyone. I’m sure you’re wondering “Comfort food? In the summer?” All I have to say is that sometimes a girl needs take a break from smoothies and salads to dig into a bowl of hearty, smoky, cheesy, comforty goodness.
Now, to explain why this girl needs that break. Some of you may have noticed that I’ve dropped down to doing 2 posts a week, rather than 3. Here’s the reason: Life has been happening.
Life Moment #1: Due to faulty plumbing or cracked grout in our upstairs neighbor’s bathroom, our bathroom got a little waterlogged. So the walls and ceiling of our bathroom were stripped of drywall, as well as a section of our bedroom, and huge, loud fans were blowing in there for almost a week. This meant that we had to sleep and shower at an AirBnB just a few blocks from our actual house while that section of our home was not habitable. The first night, though, we hadn’t set up our alternate sleeping arrangements in time so we had to stay home. So we brought our nifty daybed (which we almost never get to use) out of the office, set up a huge bed in our living room with lots of pillows and blankets and our dog and we binge-watched the new season of Orange is The New Black until 4 am. Best. Slumber. Party. Ever.
Life Moment #2: Probably because our house was in such a disarray for a week, I got bit by the “I need to organize the shit out of every room in my house” bug. This turned out to be a good thing because I finally started tackling a lot of little things around the house that had been bothering me. I completely reorganized my food photography props, my kitchen pantry, and all of our bookshelves. I bought a new (old) vintage dresser (glossy, yellow Hollywood Regency style, with brass handles) to replace our rickety, million-year-old IKEA dresser so now my clothes aren’t crammed haphazardly into small drawers. I keep rubbing the top of the dresser
and pressing my cheek to it while telling it how much I love it. We had an old chair and ottoman reupholstered (it originally was white pleather that the sun had not been kind to and it had been retired to our garage for about 6 months) in the most lovely peacock blue tweed fabric and now it sits in our living room’s new reading nook. I’m sitting in it now as I write and I don’t think I will ever get up.
Life Moment #3: The twins graduated from 8th grade. And they turn 14 this Saturday. And they start highschool in August. And in 4 years, they’ll be going to college. And I’ll be in my late 30’s then. Which is impossible for me to wrap my brain around because I just turned 21. So… now, I need a glass of wine. Thanks.
Life Moment #4: I got ordained online so I can officiate at one of my best friend’s wedding. When you’re in high school, you never think that your then-boyfriend’s friend will eventually become the equivalent of your big brother and one of your dearest friends. But that’s the way life works and when he asks you to marry him and his fiancee on the the day before your own anniversary, you get a big lump in your throat and all you can say is yes. So now you’re a nervous wreck because you’re not terribly sure what you’re supposed to say and it’s only 2 weeks away and that lump in your throat has turned into panic. Pure panic.
Life Moment #5: This past weekend, I got together with my family for the second time since my grandmother’s funeral. Awhile back, my aunt told me that while she was going through my grandmother’s things, she came across a note I’d written to my cousin (who I went to school with at the time) when I was 14. She told me that she’d hid it on my grandma’s desk so I could get it the next time I was there. I finally got it and it was the most amazing thing reading something I’d written 20 years ago and though it was intended for my cousin, my grandma was the only person who’d read it in that time. It is the funniest note, discussing the 2 boys I liked at the time and I didn’t know who I should “ask out,” the boy she had a crush on, and it included several inside jokes that I’d completely forgotten until now. I don’t know why grandma hung onto it and why she never told me but for some reason, I find it so comforting that she knew me even better than I’d known.
After a long day with all of this life happening, sometimes a big salad just won’t cut it. I need something rich and soul-satisfying while still being on the healthy side. And it’s a cinch to make. It’s basically a vegan Philly cheese steak sandwich but in a bowl. Chewy brown rice takes the place of bread, and then the sandwich fillings are just piled on top. Sautéed onion and bell pepper with loads of savory and meaty portobello slices (the vegan worcestershire sauce just takes the portobello over the top, but if you don’t have any, a splash of liquid smoke and some additional liquid aminos will do), drenched in a cheesy macadamia/cashew sauce. It’s so filling without being really heavy and the flavor is ridiculously fantastic (even though it’s not the most photogenic meal). When life happens, you can find comfort in this bowl.
- 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, soaked in warm water for 1 hour, water reserved
- 1/4 cup cashews, soaked in warm water for 1 hour, water reserved
- 1/2 cup reserved soaking water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon white miso
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard (or dijon mustard)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 4 large portobello mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons liquid aminos (or tamari/soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon vegan worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooked rice (or another grain, such as quinoa, farro, or millet)
- Combine the cheese sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender and process or blend until completely smooth. Set aside (if you are making this awhile before the rest of the meal, chill it until ready to use).
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan, preferably cast-iron, over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper slices, oregano, and basil, and saute for 5 to 7 minutes or until bell pepper is tender. Add salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil. Transfer the vegetables to the foil and wrap them up tightly. Set aside.
- Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the portobello slices and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the liquid aminos and vegan worcestershire sauce and saute for about 7 more minutes or until tender. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper and remove from the heat.
- Scoop rice into each bowl and top with a layer of the onions and bell peppers. Top that layer with several portobello slices (roughly 1 portobello per person) and generously drizzle the cheese sauce over the mushrooms. Serve immediately and enjoy!
If you don't have vegan worcestershire sauce, use 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke and 2 additional teaspoons of liquid aminos.
What kind of food do you turn to when life happens?
Photography by Chris Miller