Photo by Judith Hausman
This month, as life turns toward the interior and food gets comfier and cozier, I’ve run into a few terrific vegetarian winter sandwiches at local restaurants to tell you about. None will be hard to replicate at home. Is there any better accompaniment to the homemade soup I often make than a really great sandwich?
Sandwich Find No. 1
At Restaurant North, a sleek, new, farm-to-table restaurant in my area, the kitchen mixed grated, raw winter vegetables with aioli to fill crumbly whole grain bread. Grated broccoli stems, butternut squash and sunchokes—all of which can be local and/or regional here in December—made a colorful, if humble mix, and the garlicky mayonnaise and a cushion of mashed avocado added luxury. Two-fisted, it was, and really satisfying, but my homemade version would be even more so paired with tomato soup. This summer soup recipe will work fine in December with home-canned tomatoes.
Sandwich Find No. 2
For the second sandwich, Bedford Post Inn gets the credit. It comprises panelle (Sicilian chickpea fritters, cousin to farinata) and goat cheese on crusty peasant bread, a combo as rustic and sophisticated as the restaurant. These fritters are fat patties with a crunchy outside and a smoother inside texture than the similar Middle Eastern falafel. (Secret Weapon: boxed falafel mix would approximate and simplify this sandwich.) At home, I’d partner it with a good chicken or post-Thanksgiving turkey soup. My own this year was a classic: barley, carrots, onion and the leftover Brussels sprouts.
Sandwich Find No. 3
The third sandwich hit was the creation of a young and comfortable spot on the Hudson side of my county, called Juniper. Warm-orange butternut squash, goat cheese and onion marmalade are slathered on country bread slices—so simply satisfying. The ultra-smooth apple-celery root soup I spooned up with it is a partnership worth trying to imitate.
My Sandwich Creation
These sandwiches inspired my own invention. I roughly chopped up frozen mixed greens (chard, bok choy and napa cabbage) and red and yellow sweet peppers from the summer. Capers and garlic make nice add-ins that punch up a Mediterranean theme. Then I spread this on toasted rye bread (or maybe whole-wheat flatbreads) and dollop the open-faced toasts with ricotta.
When I can find it, I prefer the wonderful whole-milk ricotta made from New England milk by Calabro, a family-owned cheese company in not-far-from-here East Haven, Conn. It’s even sold in an adorable little metal bucket. I heat the whole thing gently in the toaster oven. Piquante (but not hot) peppers, firm rye, comforting milky ricotta: Just add cider or a dark beer and a fire in the woodstove to feel cozy-issimo.