Summertime means a bounty of fresh veggies and fruit, as well as picnics and sandwiches. There are so many choices for meat eaters, but what can you do for the vegetarians? Much as we love our veggies, it can get boring to have a steady diet of cucumber, lettuce, and cheese sandwiches. So, here are some ideas to help you wow your vegetarian friends on your next picnic. (Of course you can also apply the same tricks to the meat-eaters' sandwiches- everyone likes a switch-up now and then).
Step 1: Idea One: Choose Different Veggies
Don't just think of lettuce, cucumber and tomato for vegetarian sandwiches. Try some different thinly sliced vegetables to add interest. Radish, jicama, kale, carrots and cabbage all add new crunch and variety. How about hot peppers for the chile heads?
Step 2: Idea Two: Roast Those Veggies
To add a different flavour and texture to sandwiches, slice up some veggies (here I am doing red peppers, eggplant, and onion- mushrooms and garlic would be great too), and put them on a sheet pan with a little olive oil. Roast them in a very hot oven or BBQ (475-500 degrees F) until they are browned but not too crisped. Turn them over and brown the other side. You could add a little seasoning, but watch the salt, as other ingredients will also add salt to the sandwich. Add the roasted veggies into the sandwich. Roasting caramelizes the sugars in the vegetables to bring some sweet and umami depth to the sandwich.
Step 3: Idea Three- Roast a Side Dish at the Same Time
Since you're already slicing veggies and putting on the oven, use a mandoline or food processor (or even a potato peeler if you don't have the others) to make some super-thin sliced chips to put on your plate beside the sandwich. Here I've used blue potatoes to make potato chips, but you can use virtually any root veggie- beets, yams, even carrots if you like. Simply arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and drizzle or spray them with a little olive or canola oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and any other seasonings you like. Put the tray in the hot (475-500 degree F) oven and let them cook until hard on the first side. Turn them over and cook the other side until crispy. They cook very quickly and can go from nicely browned to burned quite fast, so you need to keep an eye on them. They taste so much better than store-bought potato chips and they are healthier too, since they are not deep fried.
Step 4: Idea Four- Why Just Vegetables?
Believe it or not, hard fruits can be delicious in a veggie sandwich. Adding thinly sliced apples (perhaps with some cheddar) or sliced pears (maybe with feta or bleu cheese) to the other veggies can make a divine sandwich. Try it- you'll be amazed. Really.
Step 5: Idea Five- Mix Up the Breads.
Don't always rely on sliced sandwich loaves. There are so many styles and flavours of breads available. Each one brings a different taste and feel to a sandwich. Try a toasted olive ciabatta sandwich or put a bunwich into a panini press to change things up. And for a speed-making tip: make several sandwiches at once by slicing an entire thin loaf lengthwise, then filling it as if it is a submarine sandwich. Add any condiments you like, and then close it and cut it up into individual sandwiches.
So there you have it- five quick and simple ideas for adding a little pizzaz to the boring vegatarian picnic fare. I hope you try some of them and find some new favourites.