Any cook can tell you there is a kitchen equivalent to a bad hair day. Those perplexing and humbling days when everything you attempt ends up just "wrong" in an indefinable way.
These off days drive me crazy and I usually end up cooking one horrid thing after another in a frustrated attempt to produce something edible. I've only recently begun to surrender. Now, when I burn the breakfast, I flee. I pack the girls into the car and we head out in search of something good. We usually end up at my Mom's house. Or at our local community kitchen (which serves 3 vegetarian meals a day.) Or, if it's a really bad day, we drive 45 minutes to Charlottesville for the best bagel sandwiches on Earth.
Thankfully, in the spirit of balance, there are also days of sublime inspiration. Days when someone walks into your kitchen hungry and half an hour later you're perched on stools relishing some new and expressive dish.
The sandwich in this post was inspired by our dear friend Tony who lives next door. He's actually more family than friend. And by "next door," I mean he lives in a little apartment in our house, separated only by a door...one that is open more often than closed.
I'm grossly understating by calling him an animal lover. Or a plant lover. It's more accurate to say that Tony is a life-lover. A few months back he heard someone speak about the realities of the dairy industry for the first time. It had a big impact on him and he immediately began to avoid dairy. But, being Tony, he didn't label himself as vegan or make a big deal out of his dietary preferences. He never wants to put anyone out.
When he first moved in he didn't have a functional kitchen for a while so I was often cooking for him, along with Mat and the girls. What's one more mouth to feed? In Tony's case it was really a treat for me to cook for him. Not only was it a wonderful challenge to create some new grown-up, vegan fair, but it was also incredibly rewarding.
Tony is a very enthusiastic person in general and Italian by descent, so he eats with bottomless gusto. He groans and oohs and ahhs throughout the meal and then adamantly declares it the best of his life. Every. Single. Time. You can't help but want to cook for him.
So, in honor of a very happy eater, The Antoine:
2 slices of lightly toasted bread of your choice (I use European style rustic whole grain or Ezekiel bread)
1/2 an avocado, mashed with a fork (You can halve it again and mash directly onto each slice of bread)
Sriracha hot sauce
4 or 5 roasted red pepper strips (homemade or your favorite brand)
6 - 8 fresh basil leaves
A handful of fresh, baby spinach
Optional: Mozzarella (fresh or low-moisture whole milk), very thinly sliced, enough to cover one slice of bread.
A little about the how's and why's of this sandwich:
Avocado is a wonderful, nutrient rich replacement for mayonaise or even veganaise. It contains all those healthy, satisfying fats that our bodies actually need along with a surprising amount of fiber for something so decadent: five grams!
Spinach is a great source of many essential nutrients and antioxidents. It's rich in both calcium and iron which are two minerals to be aware of when eating a plant based diet.
Fresh basil works well both with the hot sauce in a Thai sort of way and with the red peppers and mozzerella in a Mediterranean way.
The roasted red peppers and Sriracha hot sauce complement each other well and offer a nice flavor counterpoint to the creamy avocado. Red peppers are rich in vitamin C and betacarotein.
Whole grain bread is always a good bet: it offers more fiber (which aids digestion), is full of nutrients and fuels your body for longer than a white bread, which is essentially a refined sugar.
Mozzerella and red peppers are a classic match that I've adored for years. When I lived in Brooklyn ten years ago, there was an amazing Italian deli, Paneantico, just down the block from our apartment. They made a sandwhich with fresh mozz and marinated roasted red peppers that I still crave on a regular basis. Everything made in house, usually that morning. Heaven.
For those of you interested in knowing more about the health benefits of various superfoods, go to www.whfoods.com. Thank you, Sumati, for turning me on to this info packed site.