Taking it from the street

In Recipies on June 2, 2011 at 9:55 am

(Editor’s Note:  I try desperately to use my own photography whenever possible.  Unfortunately, I left the hard drive (and CD-ROM backup) containing thousands of my original shots of Israel with a friend who is helping with the graphic design portion of a cookbook project of mine.  As a result, the photo used in this submission is not my own and comes from free-use Web will be given to the owner wherever possible.)

Ben Yehuda Street (Flckr "Creap" photo)

I love Israeli street food and I still remember the taste of my first real falafel from a stand just off of Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem.  It was wrapped in hot pita and dripping with tahina, cucumber dip, and hot pepper sauces.  I made the mistake and happy choice of asking for a gadol (large) one and was only barely able to waddle back to the home of my friends where I was staying after finishing it.

Even though I now make my own scratch falafel and pita year around, it always tastes better in the heat of summer.  The only down side, is that making both pita and falafel from scratch is not something you can whip up a few minutes before supper.

Consequently, I turn to another Israeli street favorite, the mushroom and onion sandwich.  These sandwiches are served “take-away” from many cafes and kiosks.  Until pizza and hamburgers arrived in Israel, they were a favorite mid-day meal or snack for working class Israelis.  Why the working class?  These sandwiches are a bit messy and that is a lot of their charm.  I have never seen an Israeli dressed in a business suit eating one.

Then again, one hardly ever sees Israelis in business suits, it is a wonderfully informal culture…like so many around the Mediterranean.

I cannot remember a time when I did not enjoy onions on any kind of sandwich.  When I was only a little boy, my father (OBM) hooked me on a sandwich consisting only of a thick slice of a large, sweet onion with a bit of salt and pepper.  I did the “kid thing” and slathered a dollop of peanut butter on my onion sandwich.

I still do so today.

The following mushroom and onion sandwiches are a bit more complex and I am providing some variations that will allow Phyne Dyners to choose between quick and deluxe when making them.  As I said before, they can be a bit messy to eat, but that is part of the charm of street food.  Just serve them with plenty of napkins, or a big roll of paper towels to pass around the table as needed.

The Fast Version

3 TBS olive oil

¼ to ½ C finely minced onion per sandwhich

½ C chopped mini-bella or white button mushrooms per sandwich

¼ tsp dried thyme leaves per sandwich

½ tsp ground cumin per sandwich

1 egg, slightly beaten, per sandwich

1 onion-roll bun per sandwich, toasted

salt and freshly ground pepper to season

Heat the oil in a skillet over low-medium heat.  Add the onion, mushrooms, thyme, and cumin and cook until the onions are golden and the mushrooms are soft and well cooked.  Pour the beaten egg into the pan and swirl it to ensure all of the other ingredients are encased in the egg.  Cook until the egg is well set on the bottom, turn over, and cook until done.  Try to turn the egg like an omelet without breaking it.  Serve on the toasted onion roll with sliced tomato, lettuce, tahina, hummus, or roasted eggplant-pepper dip.

The Deluxe Version

5 TBS olive oil

¼ to ½ of one medium onion, per sandwich, thinly sliced

1 large portabella mushroom per sandwich

¼ to ½ tsp dried thyme leaves per sandwich

½ tsp ground cumin per sandwich

1 egg, lightly beaten, per sandwich

1 onion-roll bun per sandwich

salt and freshly ground pepper to season

NOTE:  This is a very “busy” version for the cook.  It takes a bit of planning to get the egg/onion mixture and mushroom tops to plate at the same time.


Pre-heat a gas or charcoal grill to a medium heat (hot, but not so hot as one to cook meat).  Remove the stems from the portabella mushrooms and brush both sides with a bit of olive oil and set them aside.

Heat three tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, reserving two tablespoons of the oil to brush on the mushroom caps later.  Add the minced onion, cumin, and thyme leaves.  Cook until the onions are deep golden, about 8-12 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

Place the mushroom caps, top down, on the grill.  Grill for 3-5 minutes.  Enlist someone to watch the mushrooms while you finish off the dish inside.  You can also finish cooking the eggs by bringing the skillet to the grill, or using the grill’s side-burner if you have one.  Cooking eggs in a skillet on the grill takes a bit of skill to avoid scorching them.  Add the beaten eggs to the skillet, swirl to cover all of the onion, and cook until firmly set.  Gently turn the egg/onion mixture and continue to cook until done.

Place one mushroom cap on the bottom of an onion roll.  Place a generous helping of the onion/egg mixture on top.  Cover with sliced tomato and lettuce.  Slather generously with your choice of tahina, hummus, mayo, or roasted eggplant-pepper dip.  Grab and handful of napkins and enjoy!

The Middle Road

The ingredients are identical to those used in the Deluxe Version above, with one modification…you will be slicing the mushroom caps across their widest dimension to make thin, large rounds of mushroom.

NOTE:  The mushrooms can be slice with a sharp knife if you are talented.  Or, use a mandolin slicer for this step.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, thyme, and cumin.  Cook until onions are deep golden.  Remove and set aside on a plate.  Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and add the mushroom rounds without crowding.  Cook until just beginning to soften.  Reduce heat to low-medium.  Return the cooked onion to the skillet by evenly scattering them over the mushroom slices.  Pour the beaten egg over the mushrooms and onions.  VERY gently, so not to swish the onions off of the mushroom slices, swirl the skillet to ensure the egg is evenly distributed.  Cover, and cook until thoroughly set (do not turn).  Serve on toasted onion-roll buns as in the FAST or DELUXE versions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: