Grilled Eggplant Sandwich

Eggplant sandwich

One of the ways I’ve found vegetarian recipes is by searching for a food I like and putting “vegetarian” in front of it. That’s how I found what formed the basis of tonight’s grilled eggplant sandwiches.

I decided to see if there was a veggie substitute for a Cubano sandwich. A Cubano is basically a pulled pork sandwich topped with a slice of ham. But since there are so may variations of pulled pork, there are as many ways to make a Cubano, unlike a Reuben.

I found several vegetarian iterations for a Cubano. The one that looked best to me called for portabella mushrooms. But they were $6/lb at the store, a little pricey. So I called an audible in the produce section and decided on eggplant, with sliced mushrooms as garnish. They were delicious. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

One eggplant, peeled and sliced about 1/2″ thick

Two cloves garlic, finely chopped

One red onion, sliced thin

One green pepper and one red pepper, cut into strips

8 oz. sliced mushrooms, coarsely chopped

Large dill pickles sliced lengthwise into thin strips (optional)

Four Tbs. butter, divided

Thick bread such as sourdough, ciabatta, French or other

2 Tbs. sour cream

2 Tbs. stone ground mustard

Saute the eggplant in part of the butter. When cooked but still firm, remove from heat and put on a plate. Add more butter to the pan and the garlic, onions, mushrooms and peppers. Cook until crisp tender. Mix the sour cream and mustard together. Spread on one slice of bread. Place the eggplant in a single layer on the bread. Put slices of Swiss cheese on top of eggplant. When the other vegetables are done, divide them onto the bread slices. Top with a slice of dill pickle.  Put the other slice of bread on top.

Add remaining butter to the grill. Put the sandwiches on the grill and put a heavy skillet, weighted pan or something else to press the sandwiches against the grill. You can use a spatula, moving from sandwich to sandwich. Cook until one side of the sandwich is browned, 3-5 minutes. Remove sandwiches and re-butter the pan. Carefully turn the sandwiches over and repeat until the other side is done. Remove and serve immediately.

Pressing the sandwiches is optional but it forces the ingredients together and the juice out of the pickle so the flavor infuses the sandwich. I wouldn’t skip that step. Also, though the pickles are optional, they add flavor and to me this sandwich without the pickle would be a like a Reuben without sauerkraut.

I highly recommend this recipe. As I look back on it, I think the eggplant was an improvement over the portabella mushrooms.

Junk Food

I’m happy to report that after Wednesday’s slight hiccup I’m back on the meatless wagon. The sandwich was good, but it would have been just as good without the meat. I’m discovering that — it’s the condiments that most often make food taste good and you can use ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, salt, pepper and all the other things on a vegetable sandwich.

To follow up a bit on yesterday’s post about the meat industry, the prevalence of meat makes going meatless less convenient. This was reinforced today when I went for my monthly (or thereabouts) serving of true, bottom of the pond, junk food. About once a month I stop at 7-11 and get something off their grill, usually the buffalo chicken rollers. They have absolutely no value, social, nutritional or redeeming. But they’re good once in a while. I couldn’t do that today, but I needed my junk food fix. Fortunately the good folks at the Sev have cream cheese and jalapeno taquitos.

You can still eat junk food without eating meat.

A Bit of a Stumble

It finally happened. I had a sandwich with meat yesterday. I know you’ve all been waiting to see if I could make it the full 31 days and it turns out, I can’t.

I was attending a lunch meeting of an advisory board that I sit on. They had pre-made sandwiches,  chips, cookies and soda. Three of the basic food groups, potato chips, cookies and soda were there  but I didn’t think I could make a meal out of just those. It was a choice between going hungry at lunch or eating a sandwich. I’ve said before that going hungry is not an option. And I wasn’t willing to take my sandwich apart as we sat around a table and discussed business. So I ate it. Sue me!

It did make me think of how ubiquitous meat is in our society. All of our meals revolve around cooked flesh of some sort or another. Think of the meat industry, from the producers to the processors to the packagers to the transporters to the sellers. It’s a huge industry. I said I wasn’t undertaking Meatless August as a way of protesting eating meat or the effect meat consumption has on the environment, but I do think that to be an ethical consumer of meat, you have to acknowledge where it comes from and the process that takes place to get that juicy steak on your plate. Meat doesn’t occur naturally on Styrofoam trays wrapped in cellophane. I’m afraid too many people who are more than a generation removed from our agricultural society that predominated until the last 50 years don’t understand that.

So I stumbled yesterday but today I’m back on track, looking forward to a garden vegetable patty and corn on the cob for dinner tonight.

Burgers!

Black bean burgers

One of the meats I like best is a juicy hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion — all the fixings. Tonight I wanted a burger, so I made one: a chipotle black bean burger. I added fresh lettuce, onion, tomato, a little mayonnaise and I drizzled some Italian herb red wine vinegar over everything rather than use ketchup and mustard. Some baked French fries, also with a little vinegar and a couple slices of tomato and it was the equal of any beef burger I’ve eaten.

Black bean burgers come in a number of different varieties. There are the chipotle ones like I made tonight. Garden veggie burgers. Italian herb burgers. Almost anything you could want. They can be used as fillers in stews and soups. I like to cook one and top it with a couple of fried eggs, over easy. You can crumble them and use them as the base of burritos or tacos, too. You can also make them yourself, as Melinda has done. But you’ll have to ask her for the recipe.

Black bean burgers, baby! It’s da bomb.

Sunday Dinner

Bean enchiladas with Mexican rice and fresh guacamole

Today I went to an old standby, bean enchiladas. Super easy to make and everyone likes them . I made fresh guacamole and bean dip for the chips and Mexican rice for the side. The rice would have been good but for a user error. You are supposed to brown the uncooked rice in hot oil first. I kind of blackened a few (ok, a lot) of the grains. I like to think it gave it an earthy taste. Everyone was polite and took a serving, but the rest went in the garbage. Too bad because the recipe looked great.

Almost starting Week 3!

Three Cheese Tortellini

The fact that I haven’t posted anything for a few days doesn’t mean I fell off the wagon. There’s just been little to report. Leah, Melinda, Courtney and I are still holding strong to Meatless August, a little over 1/3 of the way through the month. I haven’t had any meat cravings, though yesterday morning was a challenge. Nancy has been such a good sport about eating whatever veggie meals I make that I decided to cook some bacon for her breakfast. Those crispy slices, gleaming with fat, giving off the delectable odor of meat was almost too much. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I would have had to report my failure here, I probably would have caved in.

Three cheese tortellini  

Three cheese tortellini is my new go-to favorite. I’ve tried it with broccoli tops, squash, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and spinach (thrown in at the end just to wilt it). Saute the veggies in olive oil until they are crisp-soft then spoon them over the tortellini. Drizzle a little more olive oil over everything just to give it some moisture and sprinkle on grated Parmesan cheese. Good stuff!

Get Creative

I’m discovering that Meatless August is requiring a bit of creativity. I too often think of veggies as just something to take up part of the plate, next to the meat, which is the real dish. So vegetables don’t have to be pretty or particularly tasty or even cooked any differently than they usually are; they just have to be there. But when vegetables become the main dish, you have to start thinking of different ways to prepare them.

My daughter, Melinda, demonstrated that last night with her sweet potato enchiladas. Who would think to put sweet potatoes in enchiladas? Beans, sure. But sweet potatoes? That’s coloring outside the lines. She sent this picture. They look delicious and her report was “they’re pretty great!”

Sweet potato enchiladas
Melinda Chambers