In hot weather, people look for easy, flavorful meals. This can mean great sandwiches. Whether they're served cold or hot, sandwiches can benefit from the help of a cool, convenient microwave oven.
The two sandwiches that follow are vegetable-based and savory. There's a make-ahead cold sandwich loaf prepared in party portions and a last-minute sandwich that's surprising and colorful.
Start the party sandwich by microwaving a ratatouille of eggplant, onions, squash and tomatoes. After vegetables have cooked down, add olive oil, garlic and herbs for flavor and microwave again. Use the ratatouille, along with cheese and salami, to fill two handsome sandwich loaves. They can be made a day or two in advance of serving. And the ratatouille can be frozen for later use.
The open-face avocado, alfalfa sprouts and Swiss cheese sandwich that follows is accented with an interesting mixture of sauteed radishes and onions. As a basis for this sandwich, choose a firm-textured rye bread that can be sliced thinly. Before serving, warm each sandwich just enough to soften, but not melt, the cheese. It will become shiny on top. Garnish with a reserved slice or two of radish. Think of how easy dinner was, for a change.
PATIO VEGETABLE SANDWICH LOAVES
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 medium eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
2 zucchini or yellow squash, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, cored and thinly sliced
1 green pepper, cored, seeded, thinly sliced
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, minced, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (1-pound) loaves unsliced Italian bread
Grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound sliced salami
1 pound sliced provolone cheese
Place onion, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, pepper and mushrooms in 4-quart microwave casserole or bowl. Cover and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 8 to 10 minutes, until vegetables begin to wilt and can be mixed.
Add olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and blend with vegetables. Cover and continue microwaving at HIGH additional 8 to 10 minutes, until vegetables are completely softened but not mushy.
After stirring and allowing vegetables to stand few minutes, enough juice should have formed to almost cover vegetables. Press vegetables into dish so there will be as much contact with juice as possible. Cover and refrigerate vegetables overnight or until completely cold.
Just before assembling sandwich loaves, drain vegetables, reserving juice if desired for tomato sauces or soups. Cut Italian breads in halves lengthwise. Scoop out centers, leaving about 1 inch around sides.
Sprinkle scooped-out halves with Parmesan cheese, then spoon 1/4 of chilled vegetables onto each half. Top bottom halves with 1/2 pound each sliced salami and provolone, and carefully replace tops. Wrap each sandwich loaf snugly in foil and refrigerate until serving. Slice each loaf just before serving. Makes about 10 servings.
OPEN-FACE AVOCADO, SPROUTS AND SWISS CHEESE SANDWICH
8 medium radishes, thinly sliced
1 medium mild yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium avocado, peeled
4 large thin slices firm-textured rye bread
1/4 pound alfalfa sprouts
1/4 pound Swiss cheese, sliced
Place radishes (reserving few slices for garnish), onion and butter in 1-quart microwave casserole or bowl. Cover and microwave at HIGH (100% power) 3 to 4 minutes, until vegetables are softened but tender-crisp.
Slice avocado and divide evenly over bread slices. With knife, mash and spread avocado to cover each slice. Sprinkle avocado with salt and pepper to taste, then evenly divide onion-radish mixture over each sandwich.
Top each sandwich with 1 ounce each of alfalfa sprouts and Swiss cheese. Just before serving, microwave each sandwich individually at MEDIUM (50% power) about 1 minute, until cheese softens. Cut in halves and garnish with reserved radish slices. Makes 4 servings.