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Making Panini for Vegans
I never thought I'd live to see the day that Toronto's sandwich shops acknowledge that vegans exist, let alone offer them a choice of delicious, fresh sandwich ingredients. The protein options are still somewhat limited, but it's possible to put together a perfectly delicious lunch using the ingredients behind many big counters, especially downtown. On one recent visit, I even saw grilled tofu as an option. I opted for hummus and mushroom instead, but it's great to see them making an effort. This is my attempt to replicate the experience at home.
There's a small amount of prep involved in making these sandwiches, but I'd say the contrasting flavours and textures make them worth the work. The most involved part is marinating the portobellos for a couple of hours and grilling them on the BBQ. Of course, grilling a well-marinated, juicy portobello is its own reward. If you'd like a simple recipe for marinating and grilling, I did one a while back. However you do it, definitely take the time to enjoy the fresh air and aromas coming off the grill. On top of the mushrooms, caramelized onions add a little sweetness. Hummus and avocado team up to provide contrasting flavours and a little protein. Mixed greens are essential.
Like any sandwich, the freshness of the bread makes a huge difference in the level of enjoyment experienced. Because the fillings are largely spreadable and/or slippery, try to choose panini or other buns that have a relatively soft crust for ease of biting. I can also see these ingredients going very nicely into a long soft bun with sesame seeds.
A few simple finishing touches change this sandwich from "this is tasty" to "oh yeah baby." A small squeeze of fresh lemon, a little drizzle of olive oil, a couple of pinches of salt, a generous sprinkling of fresh pepper, or all of the above. If you have a sandwich press, toasting the finished product can never be a bad thing. Serve with a simple salad.
2 large portobello mushrooms, marinated and grilled 10 minutes over a medium flame until softened (See this recipe for a description of marinating and grilling.)
4 ridiculously fresh panini buns (or an equivalent amount of focaccia bread, etc.)
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 Tbl canola oil for caramelizing onion
1/2 lb (230 g) hummus (Here's my method of making hummus from scratch)
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and mashed with a fork
assorted mixed greens
olive oil for drizzling
1 fresh lemon
salt and fresh pepper
Assuming that you've already grilled and sliced the mushrooms, the only other prep to do is caramelizing the onion. Heat up a frying pan over medium-high heat, add a Tbl of canola oil and saute the onion until brown and softened. A pinch or two of sugar can help with the caramelization. A small squirt of red wine vinegar near the end of the frying provides a nice bit of contrasting sour flavour. If you're using the vinegar, mix it in well and let the liquid boil off before turning off the heat. Add a little salt and fresh pepper at the end if desired.
After getting the onions ready and letting them cool a bit, it's time to assemble some sandwiches. Put the hummus, mushroom slices, onion and greens on one side of the bun.
Mash half an avocado with a fork and spread it on the top of the bun.
Squeeze a little fresh lemon, drizzle a little olive oil, grind a little fresh pepper, and sprinkle a little salt.
An optional short visit to the sandwich press will add a nice crispiness.
Serve with more mixed greens in a simple dressing (e.g., a little splash of olive oil and some lemon).
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Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2016