20 January 2011

Vegetarian Sandwiches

The most popular American lunch food must be sandwiches, don't you agree? I ate something between 2 slices of bread every day in grade school and most likely you did too. For us vegetarians, the classic sandwich repertory is quite limited: peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and banana, cheese, egg salad, egg and cheese, and tomato sandwiches come to mind. Can you think of any other? I can't. But I've got several more sandwiches up my sleeve, and because I've been eating so many sandwiches lately, I feel now is the time to share some of my vast, secret lore.

First, Variations on the Classics:
  • Almond butter and jelly
  • peanut butter and thinly sliced apples
  • peanut butter and sliced grapes or raisins
  • pimento cheese
  • blue cheese, sliced fruit, and lettuce
  • curried egg/tofu salad
  • Niçoise egg salad with cooked, marinated green beans, chopped olives, and capers
  • tomato and fresh herbs
  • tomato and cucumber
Simple Nouveau Vegetarian:
  • hummus and (pre-made) stuffed grape leaves
  • chopped marinated artichoke, cheese, lettuce
  • fried pepper, avocado and sliced potato
  • pureed bean spread with lettuce and/or tomato
  • sandwich-sliced dill pickle, red onion, lettuce, tomato, and mustard
  • lentil-walnut-onion pate
  • avocado, fresh herbs, and mung bean sprouts (crunchy!)
  • cheddar cheese and sliced pickles
  • avocado and sauteed mushrooms
  • baked, marinated tofu drizzled with a peanut sauce, hot mustard, or pesto
  • scrambled eggs and thinly sliced carrots and cucumbers
  • leftover salad
  • leftover dinner (curry? thick pasta sauce?) plus lettuce!

And then there's my Mother's Best picnic sandwich, adapted for my vegetarian self. I grew up with this sandwich and when we go on a trip to the beach or a concert in the park, this is what I always make.

Picnic Submarine Sandwich

long, crusty Italian loaf/ loaves (French is too thin, but you don't want the bread too much wider)
two or three kinds of vegetarian meats
green olives stuffed with pimentoes
a yellow onion
mayo (or Vegenaise)
good-quality whole grain mustard
fresh lettuce
fresh tomato-on-the-vine
one or two kinds of sliced cheese, optional

  1. First you have to slice the loaf carefully. You cut it into about 6" lengths. Then you slice it lengthwise so it opens but the two halves remain firmly attached to each other.
  2. Next you carmelize the onion. Slice the onion into thin rounds, heat up a fry pan with a little oil, and when it's hot, add the onion and slowly cook it on medium-low heat until it's golden brown, kind of sticky and oozy and sweet. This will take about 30-45 minutes. You can speed it up if you cover the fry pan.
  3. You probably want to toast the bread so it will remain firm after it's packed. If you prefer your cold sandwiches with melted cheese, put the cheese on one half now while you slowly bake it at 300 degrees. It's done when the cheese bubbles and develops the good kind of brown spots.
  4. You absolutely have to bake the vegetarian meats as well. With the rare exception of some Tofurkey meats, they need to be slowly baked/ toasted to taste good and develop a pleasing texture. I like to bake mine on the bread, but you can also put it on a baking sheet or some foil.
  5. With a small sharp knife slice a bunch of green olives. Slice the tomato thinly. Wash the lettuce and tear it into pieces.
  6. Assemble the sandwich! Mayo and/or melted cheese goes on one side and mustard slathered on the other. Then you embed a layer of sliced olives into the mayo/melted cheese. You add lettuce to both sides to keep the sandwich from getting soggy. Now on one half you pile on a combination of various meats and unmelted cheeses. Finally add sliced tomato and carmelized onions.
  7. With the utmost care and delicacy, close the two halves! Pack it tightly. Maybe stick a toothpick in to hold it together.
  8. Eat it with big, toothy bites. Rawrmrawrumfchompchompchomp*gulp*aaahhhhhhh.
O Faithful Readers, what are your favorite Vegetarian Sandwiches?

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