April 14, 2011

Meatless Meals: Spring Vegetarian Sandwiches

Mr. Turtle says nom-nom-nom.

The best part of a really late Easter is that there are all these amazing spring vegetables finally back in the market, just in time for my annual make-up-for-the-fact-that-I-fail-at-Lent-so-I-don't-eat-meat-for-two-weeks guilt session. It happens every year.  Laetare Sunday passes and I realize I have only 3 weeks of lent yet, and I am as soft and silly as I ever was.  So I try to make up for it by not eating meat.  It's pretty silly, since I don't eat that much meat anyway, but it makes me feel like I'm doing something.

Now, guys, you may or may not notice this (I am discovering there are many truly deeply important things I have failed to share with you recently), but I love sandwiches.  Love! But most people think of lent sandwiches as soggy tuna-fish and stale PB+J (though, PB+J is vastly improved by certain artisinal jams). But in spring sandwiches are so fun.  There are all these bright, fresh, exciting new flavors, and all you have to do is show them a little love, and you've got yourself a great sandwich.

Case in point: last Saturday the market had West Virginia ramps.  And I made a super zingy ramp pesto.  I mixed it with pasta for dinner, but saved the rest for lunches.  All week long I've been using it in different ways to brighten my sandwiches:
Monday: Slather on Cibatta with avocado and cheddar cheese (would have been so good with bacon and multi grain bread, but I had cibatta, and...well, bacon is out.)
Tuesday: I ate out.  The Kale I ordered had bacon and I didn't notice till halfway through lunch.
Wednesday: (above) I took the now mostly stale Cibatta and toasted it lightly.  I mixed the pesto with mayo, and added a creamy brie.  I sliced two radishes really thin (also now in season) and topped it all with salt and pepper.
Thursday: Today I mixed the pesto with mayo, tuna, and some roasted red peppers, and served it on multi-grain bread.
Friday: I am hoping to get some mozzarella and make a cheese sandwich with it and the pesto.
Do you see the pattern here?  Take good bread, and your pantry basics, like roasted red peppers and canned tuna, and add different cheeses and or vegetables plus your star ingredient (in this case the pesto), and you've got a killer line-up of lunches.  Each one of these was wildly different in flavors, and oh-so-good.

So, about that pesto:

1 bunch of ramps, cleaned and outer layer removed
1 to 2 cups flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped (stems ok, if you don't mind the taste)
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
Juice of one lemon
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Put ramps, parsley, and almonds in the bowl of your food processor.  Pulse a couple times, and then add the cheese, lemon juice, and Salt and pepper.  While running the processor, pour in a steady stream about 1/3 cup olive oil.  Let run for 15 seconds till emulsified and well chopped.  Add more oil if necessary.  Store in an airtight container, preferably with plastic wrap pressed against the top of the pesto to ensure it won't brown.

This is not a tame pesto.  The ramps are young, but have a lot of bite.  Mixing them with the parsley tones it down--basil or mint would do too, though parsley will compete less with the flavor of the ramps.

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