The flavors of sumac and za’atar bring out a sort of moxie from the portabella mushroom. Maya Salem / Daily Nexus

As I confront the end of summer, I don’t want to say goodbye to the light and healthy meals that somehow link themselves with the sunny season. I just won’t. So here’s something quick enough to whip up on a busy night: a mushroom steak. This meatless option will lure you in with its simplicity and ensnare you with its complexity.

There’s not so much of a secret to a well-seasoned portabella mushroom, but rather a game. Simply play with the unique earthy flavors. This one is infused with Middle Eastern flavors (also known as my parents’ spice cabinet), such as red sumac — not to be confused with its very poisonous cousin with a white berry — whose tangy flavor profile compliments za’atar, a spice mixture of herbs and sesame seeds. Together, these flavors bring out a sort of moxie from the portabella mushroom. Lain across a sultry bed of hummus and outfitted with some lemony broccolini? Say no more. 



  • 3 large portabella mushroom caps
  • 3 tablespoons hummus
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • 1.5 tablespoons za’atar 
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper



  • 5-8 stocks broccolini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about one large lemon)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (about one large lemon)
  • ½ bunch mint
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)



  1. Prepare the portabella caps and twist off the stems. Make sure they are dry before setting them to marinate. 
  2. For the marinade: In a small bowl, mix together the sumac, za’atar, 1 tablespoon paprika, 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, soy sauce and pepper. 
  3. In a wide dish, place the portabella caps gills down and douse them with about half of the marinade. Flip them gills-side up and distribute the marinade well. Let this rest in the fridge, covered, for a few hours. (I ended up making the marinade only 30 minutes in advance, so instead I basted them while on the grill. The good thing is that it works either way!)
  4. Preheat your grill or a grill pan until very hot (around 500 F). Meanwhile, prepare your broccolini, making sure they are all about the same size. Lather them with the remaining olive oil and put them on the heat. These will take longer to cook than the mushrooms, so make sure to do them first if your pan or grill space is not large enough.
  5. When the broccolini are about halfway through, start the mushrooms. If you have extra marinade, use it now. Let the portabella caps cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second. It will have shrunk to about ¾ its original size. Take them off the heat and let them rest under aluminum foil for a few minutes. Slice.
  6. When the broccolini can be easily pierced with a fork in the thickest part of its stock, it is ready. Transfer from the heat and into a bowl, along with the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss. 
  7. On a serving plate, smear a good amount of hummus. If desired, season the hummus with paprika or sumac or olive oil. Place the sliced portabella cap on the hummus, and top with torn mint leaves. Serve the broccolini on the side. 


This dish is full of fresh flavors and hearty goodness. (That is, of course, if you like portabellas. The non-shroomers are missing out.) Plus, it’s also a very photogenic meal, so it’s pretty much perfect.


Make sure to tag @ucsbonthemenu on Instagram with your spin!


A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the September 29, 2022 version of The Daily Nexus