Lately I have been kinda lazy… With lots of work and travel, I have not been the most creative in the kitchen, cooking from scratch for myself. For lunch or dinner, lots of sandwiches and snack foods. I know… not so good.
But I was training for a half marathon so I needed to get some good vegetarian protein in my diet especially for after my workouts. They help rebuild muscle when taken right after training. I sometimes turn to my trusted pretzels with hummus combination… or my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But I had gone to La Hacienda, a popular gourmet market and deli here in Puerto Rico and I had bought a garbanzo bean salad and this is what I came up with it… you can call it a pizza or an open-faced sandwich, but there’s no denying that you will certainly be adding “mouth-watering” and “addictive” to whichever name you choose.
OPEN-FACED MEDITERRANEAN SANDWICH
1 flat bread of your choice… I like FlatOut brand
½ cup of cooked garbanzo beans or garbanzo bean salad from La Hacienda
3 wedges of avocado
1 roma tomato, sliced
2 large handfuls of mesclun salad greens
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
This is just assembling…
- Drizzle and spread some olive oil to the flat bread and toast it in the oven… I like my flat breads crispy. I use the toaster feature in Light.
- Take the toasted flat bread from the oven and place the garbanzo bean salad and the avocado wedges and mash it all together with a fork trying to cover as much flatbread surface as possible. You can sprinkle a little salt, pepper and olive oil to the mixture while you’re mashing.
- Place tomato slices over the mashed garbanzo/avocado mixture.
- Place mesclun greens or even baby spinach over the tomato slices. Season salad greens with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Cut into pieces using a pizza cutter… I found it was easier than using a knife.
Tip: I found the mashing worked best than leaving the garbanzos and avocados in pieces… they would roll off the flat bread and I ended up eating more out of the plate with a fork than over the bread itself. So that’s why I recommend mashing…
I was given a challenge… A Sandwich a Day wanted us to showcase our favorite sandwiches.
I’ve told you before how I could live on sandwiches alone possibly and how one of my most addictive sandwiches is my Avocado Tomato Sandwich. Sometimes I fail to come up with new ideas for sandwiches because I am so enthralled with this one still. I even dream about eating it sometimes.
But recently I have come to learn to love another sandwich… maybe not as fresh-tasting as the one above, but certainly very seasonal. Mixing apples, onions, thyme, almonds and blue cheese in between 2 pieces of bread might not seem very appealing, but oh, oh boy, how delicious it is. This has nothing to do with my Latin roots, but everything that I have learned to appreciate from my travels in the Northeastern part of the US.
Inspired by these crostini from Giada Di Laurentiis, this panino hits the spot on a cold winter night. I might even argue it works great for a nice cozy date in front of the fire. I think your date would be greatly impressed.
APPLE ONION RELISH PANINI WITH GORGONZOLA
2 slices of 100% whole grain bread
Gorgonzola Cheese crumbles
Toasted Sliced Almonds
¼ cup of Apple Onion Relish
Butter – for the outside of the bread/sandwich
- Pre-heat your Panini maker, or in my case, my George Foreman Grill.
- Spread cream cheese on the inside of both bread slices. This will be part of the glue that makes the sandwich stay together.
- On one slice, add the apple onion relish. Try to keep it as dry as possible so the moisture won’t seep out of the sandwich. Layer the toasted almonds and finish with the blue cheese crumbles.
- Close the sandwich with the other slice of bread, cream cheese on top of the almonds/blue cheese.
- Butter the outside of the slices with some softened butter.
- Place on the Panini maker and press lightly without forcing it too much. The sandwich will flatten as it toasts in the Panini maker.
- After a few minutes, the cheeses will be melted and the bread toasted on the outside. Carefully, remove the sandwich from the panini grill and allow it to cool slightly. This will allow you to cut into the sandwich without the breads sliding all over the place.
Enjoy with you favorite sparkling cider or tea.
I have a bunch of virtual friends and we decided at the end of last year to start sharing amongst each other the things we love to eat from the places we live. These virtual friends are spread all over the US and the world – Colorado, Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma, of course me in Puerto Rico and even one in Italy and another one in can’t remember if she’s in Iceland, Vietnam or Australia. That girl has me confused…
On our first round of our Foodie Exchange I got paired up the KATY, the only other vegetarian in our group. Can you believe our luck??? Well, they say there are no coincidences in life. It was up to the Universe that we would get to share what we love about our region. Katy lives in Maryland, close to DC and Baltimore… but she’s a lover of everything in her region including Pennsylvania where most mushrooms in the US are grown.
This is what I received from Katy…
But for the purposes of this post, we’ll concentrate on the baggie of dried morel mushrooms right there. Katy told me these are her favorites and that she preferred to send them fresh but was unable to locate them. So in its place she sent me these with instructions on her favorite way to eat them – sautéed with onions and thyme over toast. This is Katy’s favorite snack and she urged me to try it.
Katy is part of our Foodie Group for a reason… these toasts are amazing!!! I loved the earthiness of the morel mushrooms and how easy they are to put together. A great vegetarian snack or light lunch suitable for any foodie out there.
MOREL MUSHROOM TOASTS
½ bag of dried morel mushrooms
½ medium onion, sliced thinly
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 small garlic clove, smashed
Salt and pepper to taste
A whole wheat ciabatta roll, sliced in half
- Bring a small saucepot with water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, add the dried morel mushrooms to the water, cover and turn off the stove. Allow the mushrooms to reconstitute in that hot water for about 30 minutes.
- After the mushrooms are softened again, strain the mushrooms over a fine sieve reserving the liquid for another recipe.
- Take the drained mushrooms and pat the dry a bit. I cut the larger ones in half, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.
- In a small skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, the onions and the smashed garlic clove. Sautee them lightly for a few minutes. Add the softened morels and the thyme leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cook everything together until the mushrooms have dried out a bit and looked cooked and “kinda alive”. Discard the pieces of garlic and set aside.
5. While the mushroom cook, drizzle some olive oil over the bread halves and toast in toaster oven. Slather some cream cheese or other spreadable cheese of your choice and place the morels and onions over the toasts with cheese.
This is a great snack or even a light lunch served with a simple salad on the side. Thanks Katy for introducing me to morel mushrooms… I had eaten them in restaurants, but never made them at home. And now, this has also become one of MY favorites, thanks to you.
I have been reading about Báhn Mì’s for about a year now… maybe even longer. These Vietnamese sandwiches are all the rage in the US.
I have heard about them during the first season of The Great Food Truck Race via the successful Nom Nom Truck from Los Angeles. They were selling these sandwiches like there was no tomorrow… And even in Serious Eats, Kenji went on a dissertation of what makes a Báhn Mì a Báhn Mì and he even went on a search for the best Báhn Mì in NYC.
Báhn Mì’s are a Vietnamese sandwich that originated as a fusion of cultures when Vietnam was under French rule… According to Kenji, the main aspects of a Báhn MI are:
- Bread – French-baguette type bread usually made using rice flour for added crunch and lightness
- Main Ingredient – we will concentrate on vegetarian, tofu-based Báhn Mì’s for the purposes of this vegetarian blog post
- Sauce – the traditional Báhn Mì has a spreading of mayonnaise or butter cut with mayonnaise. These sandwiches are considered vegan, so there were no spread included. However, we should introduce these Báhn Mì people to Vegenaise. I think it would add a certain something- something closer to the traditional offerings.
- Vegetable toppings – usually made of pickled daikon radishes, pickled carrots and cucumbers all cut into small thin sticks. Cilantro stems and some sort of spicy chili pepper. Some people put Sriracha sauce on theirs, but according to expert Kenji, this is neither typical nor respectable in the Báhn Mì world.
In the search for my first Bahn Mi, I deferred to Kenji, the expert in the matter and decided to head to Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich located at 369 Broome Street, New York NY; 212-219-8341. Saigon was rated third best sandwich in Manhattan so I knew it would be a good choice over all and was easily reachable by subway. Something I liked about them as well, they had 4 vegetarian options on their menu… so we had plenty to choose from.
Mom and I were super hungry and decided to try two of their tofu sandwiches – the Bánh mì chay đạc biêt – House Special Vegetarian (with tofu, mushroom, pickled carrots and radish) and a Bánh Mì Chay Đậu Hũ, Xả Ớt Rau with Vegan chicken (tofu) with lemongrass.
I tried both versions… and my favorite was the House Special Vegetarian. Way more flavorful and interesting than the tofu lemongrass in my opinion. The House Special Vegetarian has a delicious sweet/salty peanut sauce that made the sandwich. As for the cilantro, I can certainly do without the stems. Only a few leaves on mine, please!!! I added a few drops, literally, 2-3 drops of sriracha to mine and the heat level was too much for me. I am still a spicy wimp… sorry!!!
The verdict… I loved the Báhn Mì. And if I have it again in Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich, I will order the House Special and not bother with anything else. I will try to bring some Vegenaise to use on mine… I will try to scope out other places to get a more complete sense of what a true Vietnamese báhn mì is… but for now, the intrigue is OVER!!!
Have you had a vegetarian báhn mì before??? Where are your favorite spots???
I laughed super hard last week when I was watching some recorded Rocco’s Dinner Party episodes I had on TIVO. In one of the dinner parties, the chefs were presented with a variety of cheeses from around the world… or maybe just France, can’t remember. Well, they needed to pick and serve a cheese course with their suggested party menus.
Rocco was impressed… shall I say very impressed with a FRIED CHEESE bite he was served by one of the chefs. So impressed, he still was bragging about it yesterday during a Twitter thing we had where the viewers/fans can ask him all sorts of questions directly. I laughed all over again yesterday because I replied to him that fried cheese is wonderful… and I knew I had this “recipe”, if we could call it that, in my Pending To Post file. So… let’s Post it along…
I told you about Queso del País… so this is what you do it – you FRY it!!!
Queso Blanco is mild in flavor because it contains still water, or better said, the whey. But as soon as you fry it, the water evaporates, the flavors concentrate and it becomes a salty, delicious bite that can be enjoyed alone as an appetizer or to complement a variety of recipes…
There’s not a lot of science involved in the frying of Queso Blanco… but here are my pointers:
- Use a non-stick skillet preferably.
- You can fry it dry or you can use a bit of canola oil spray. I do not find it makes that much of a difference.
- For some reason I have not figured out, my fried cheeses always deflate… but when you order fried cheese at a restaurant as an appetizer or at a party, they’re always breaded and still square. Maybe they freeze them before frying to hold their shape… I do not know because I have not tried it. But, the flavor is there even if the shape changes. And I do not think you need to bread it to get a nice color/presentation either…
- Just cut your pieces of cheese and place in a medium-hot skillet. The cheese will start of ooze some water/whey… let it. Leave it there for about 4-5 minutes until the cheese starts to get a brown, caramelized color.
- Flip over and brown the other side. It’ll take less time because most of the water in the cheese has evaporated already.
Enjoy it in various ways:
Today I am enjoying it with corn tortilla chips…
You could also place a few slices of fried cheese inside a tostón sandwich. Actually that’s the original way I was taught to make it and eat it. The tofu solution came afterwards when we had to go dairy-free for a while.
It’s the best topping for Mangú… a Dominican dish made from mashed boiled plantains with lots of onions. I will have to make that one for you sometime soon.
Also, you can add pieces to some stewed peas and convert this to a Guiso Ananda or Mattar Paneer, an Indian dish made with paneer.
Any other ways you like to eat fried cheese??? Any other ways you like to eat it??? Please share all in the COMMENTS section… we love to hear from you.