A couple of weeks ago I posted on the Chowhound message boards requesting ideas for vegetarian sandwiches that would keep (i.e. not get soggy) until the afternoon. “Any ideas?” I asked, hoping they could help me solve the one aspect of my new found vegetarianism (since June ’07) that I haven’t quite figured out yet: What do I take for lunch? In days gone by I would take a smoked turkey sandwich or something equally yummy yet meaty. And though I love using my trusty bento box I sometimes find myself craving a good old fashioned sandwich. With jalapeno potato chips. And a blackberry Izze. And maybe a pickle. You know what I mean?
Those genius Chow foodies shared many delicious ideas, from filling a whole wheat tortilla with sweet potato slices, avocado and spinach (among other tasty things) to the PLT – a pear-lettuce-tomato sandwich. Yum! Reading through their responses made my mouth water and also got the mental wheels a’turning – maybe I could work baking into this, thereby eliminating all that pesky morning prep time while reaping the benefits of a luscious sandwich filling.
The result? Baked Sandwich Surprise! Ok, so it’s not really a “surprise” since you, the baker, know what’s inside the loaf. But that initial slice, the one where you see how your veggies have meshed with all that gooey melted cheese, well, that’s almost a surprise right? For the first time you see how the vibrant greens, reds and browns of the vegetables and nuts accent the creamy white of your chosen cheese. And the taste? Fabulous. Anyways, “baked sandwich surprise” sounds better than plain ‘ole “baked sandwich.” It’s all in the title baby.
The recipe below is pretty straightforward and if you follow one simple rule you’ll reap the rewards: “When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.” By this I mean follow the directions for the dough/bread portion of the recipe (unless you are comfortable modifying bread recipes), and let your tastes decide what you fill the loaf with. I used zucchini, broccoli rabe, portabella mushrooms, red onions and mozzarella because that’s what I had in my fridge, yet the variation possibilities are endless. If you have time and are feeling adventurous, you can divide the dough into smaller portions and make individual, single serving sized sandwich loaves. I may do this next time just for kicks.
Baked Sandwich Surprise
Adapted from Beautiful Breads & Fabulous Fillings by Margaux Sky.
For the dough:
Ingredients: Makes enough for 1 large loaf
- 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup whole or low-fat warm milk
- 1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/16 teaspoon kosher salt (Half of a 1/8 teaspoon measure)
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp olive oil
Place the warm water and milk in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the liquid. Let stand for 5 minutes, or until the yeast is foamy. While the yeast is proofing, mix the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour and salt together in another bowl.
Add the butter, sugar, eggs, buttermi and vanilla to the water and milk mixture. If you are using a stand mixer put the paddle attachment on; turn the machine to its slowest setting. Slowly add the flour/salt mix to the wet ingredients, half a cup at a time, mixing well.
When the dough forms a ball, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead for 4 minutes, sprinkling extra flour 1 tsp at a time as needed, until the dough is soft, firm, and springs back from a thumbprint. Alternatively, if you are making the dough by hand, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead for 4 minutes, until it reaches the consistency described above.
Grease a large bowl with 1 tsp of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once to coat, and allow to rise in a warm dry place for 1 hour.
Filling & Assembly: You can use whatever vegetables & cheeses you like and have on hand. Mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, shredded carrots, Monterey Jack Cheese… oh the possibilities!
Ingredients: Makes 1 large loaf
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 cup blanched and chopped broccoli rabe. (To blanch it place the broccoli rabe in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain well).
- 1 large sliced red onion
- 1 cup thinly sliced zucchini
- About 8 oz of sliced baby portabella mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon dill weed, plus 1 tablespoon dried basil
(You can also use another favored herb/herb mixture. Sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary, for instance.)
- 2-3 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, plus 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
(You can use more or less depending on your tastes. Other cheeses to try: Monterey Jack, Muenster, etc. Any soft, melting cheese will do.)
- 1-2 cups roasted pine nuts, depending on tastes
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Roast the pine nuts: Heat your oven to 400 degrees, place the nuts on a baking sheet and drizzle them with olive oil. Mix the nuts with your hands to spread the oil around. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Bake for 10-15 minutes or to desired crispness and color. Set aside.
In a large skillet melt 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the broccoli rabe, zucchini, red onion and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, about 4-5 minutes, or until the zucchini, onions and mushrooms have softened. Remove from heat, mix well and cover.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a large non-stick pan with butter or non-stick spray.
Punch down your dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface so that the long side is perpendicular to your body. It should have a relatively rectangular shape and be only slightly thicker than paper thin. Brush the surface of the dough with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, the dill weed, basil, mozzarella, spinach and roasted pine nuts over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border along the edges of the dough.
Distribute the sauteed veggies over the pine nuts, then sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Season with a little more salt and pepper, if you like.
With your hands, tightly roll the dough into a loaf, jelly roll fashion, with the rolling action going away from your body. Use your fingers to fold the outer edges of the dough as you roll to prevent the filling from falling out. When you reach the end, gently grab the last portion of dough and pull it towards you. Seal the roll by pinching this last portion of dough against the roll. Smooth out with your fingers by gently pressing the seam. Place the loaf into onto the prepared baking sheet seam side down.
Beat together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the dough and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.
Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool for 30 minutes before slicing. If you want, you can serve the slices with small bowls of warm marinara sauce for dipping. This loaf will keep for 2-3 days in the fridge. Slice off a sandwich piece when packing your lunch or looking for a quick meal.