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GOOD COOKING

Make Me a Sandwich: Hold the Meat

July 22, 1993|ABBY MANDEL

Everyone knows sandwiches make a great meal, especially in the summer. But we might forget about vegetable sandwiches. No need to pile meats between bread when there are so many other fresh options available.

Almost any combination of vegetables works in a sandwich, provided certain basics are kept in mind. The first essential is the bread: High-quality fresh bread makes all the difference. Consider James Beard's absolutely simple sandwich of sweet butter and thinly sliced onion on good bread; it's a terrific light meal.

Once the bread is taken care of, the rest depends on availability and your condiment shelf. Any selection of ripe, flavorful vegetables can work in a sandwich, provided that they are very thinly sliced and evenly layered on the bread. For flavoring, use nothing more than a drizzle of vinaigrette, fresh herbs, mayonnaise or mustard. A wonderful meal is made.

I've made sandwiches from lightly salted, paper-thin cucumber and onion slices with mayonnaise and cilantro, or from leftover coleslaw and cheese, grilling until golden brown. Good sandwiches are that simple.

To complete a sandwich meal, very little is required. Soup--chilled or hot--is the usual complement, but condiments such as pickled beets, corn relish and sliced, marinated cucumbers add great flavor. They may also end up between the bread slices, giving just the edge.

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This wonderful vegetarian pita is the creation of Marvin Vigadi, chef/owner of Beverly's Cafe in Winnetka, Ill.

BEVERLY'S CAFE VEGETARIAN PITA 1 to 1 1/4 cups water 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 1/3 cups cauliflower florets 1 1/3 cups broccoli florets 1 1/3 cups sliced carrots 1 cup diced mushrooms 1 tablespoon butter 1/4 cup diced red onion 1/4 cup diced, juiced and seeded tomato 1/2 cup bottled Caesar salad dressing Salt, pepper 3 (6-inch diameter) pita rounds 6 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Bring 1 cup water and salt to boil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower, broccoli and carrots. Cook, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add mushrooms. Add remaining water if needed. When vegetables are just tender, drain off water. Stir in butter.

Remove from heat. Stir in onion, tomato and Caesar dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made few hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Gently reheat. Add little water if mixture is too thick (it should not be runny either).

To assemble, wrap pitas in foil and heat at 300 degrees until warm, about 10 minutes. Carefully cut pitas into halves. Gently open pita halves. Spoon 1 tablespoon cheese into each half. Place halves on baking sheet. Bake in oven until cheese melts, about 5 minutes. When melted, spoon warm vegetable mixture into halves, heaping generously. Serve immediately. Makes 3 pita sandwiches.

Each serving contains about: 489 calories; 933 mg sodium; 66 mg cholesterol; 31 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 1.71 grams fiber.

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Here, vegetables are grilled, then layered between bread. The sandwich is then grilled again. The basil-garlic mayonnaise just melts into the warm vegetables. The grilling vinegar--balsamic vinegar, fresh garlic and basil--makes it possible to reduce the oil on these grilled vegetables and not miss it in the least.

DOUBLE-GRILLED VEGETABLE SANDWICH 1/2 medium eggplant, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch-thick round slices 1 medium zucchini, trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick lengthwise slices 1 large sweet onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices 1 large sweet red pepper, sides cut off into lengthwise slabs Grilling Vinegar Salt Freshly ground pepper 1/4 cup light mayonnaise 1/2 cup basil leaves, minced 1 large clove garlic, minced 4 large slices crusty bread

Heat barbecue grill to medium-high. When grill is hot, use tongs to place eggplant, zucchini, onion and sweet red pepper in single layer on grate. Immediately brush Grilling Vinegar on slices and turn over. Brush top side with Grilling Vinegar. Turn vegetables to cook evenly, brushing generously with Grilling Vinegar.

When vegetables are just tender but still intact, remove from grill. Brush on remaining Grilling Vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Combine mayonnaise, basil and garlic in small bowl.

To assemble sandwiches, spread herbed mayonnaise on sliced bread. Layer vegetables on 2 slices, dividing evenly. Close sandwich, mayonnaise-side-down, pressing lightly to compress sandwich. Lightly brown on oiled griddle, or wrap in foil and heat on grill until very warm. To serve, cut sandwiches in half. Serve warm. Makes 2 large sandwiches.

Each serving contains about: 457 calories; 726 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 64 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 2.50 grams fiber.

Grilling Vinegar 1/2 cup basil leaves, minced 2 large garlic cloves, minced 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon olive oil Combine basil, garlic, vinegar and olive oil in small bowl.

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