Why is it so hard to get a vegetarian sandwich right?
Here are some ways that vegetarian sandwiches have ruined my day:
Grilled Portobello Sandwich – I think the concept is this: a big mushroom looks like a big lump of meat, so why shouldn’t we grill it, leave it raw in the middle, and put it on a bun? The reason is that they taste like their nearest-relative, mold. Ankur thought he was allergic to mushrooms for a long time, because he was served so many raw portobello mushrooms as the “vegetarian option” at work lunches. Portobello mushrooms need to be cooked properly.
Bombay Sandwich – There might be a better name for this, but I’m talking about the street food sandwiches made on white bread, sometimes toasted, and filled with green chutney, occasionally some cheese, and spicy mashed potatoes. I just don’t get how you can put potato on a sandwich! It’s filling starchy thing with something even starchier, then adding chutney to distract you. I realize that this is my own mental problem because I have no issue with chips or fries next to a sandwich, but whatever. It’s also a mental problem of mine because I will totally mooch bites of Ankur’s Bombay Sandwich at Mumbai Express in Floral Park, but I cannot fathom ordering one for myself. One step away from the Bombay Sandwich is the Bread Pakora, which is so good/problematic I cannot even talk about it.
Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches/Wraps — I blame these most of all for turning Ankur against sandwiches generally, and a number of American vegetables specifically. I fall for the delicious-sounding description on menus more than I can admit, and then what I end up getting is a mix of over-cooked peppers and undercooked eggplant (yuck!), with a whole bunch of salad dressing on them, rapidly threating to soak through the flimsy wrap encasing them.
Quarter-Pound-of-Cheese Sandwich – You can’t just take the meat out of a ham and cheese sandwich or a tuna salad sandwich and replace it with more slices of cheese. That’s gross. But people do it. Sometimes it’s ok if they grill it. But then you’re eating something you prepare at home in a pinch at restaurant – I hate that.
It’s depressing. A good sandwich is like a good salad. It’s just a bunch of stuff thrown together, and it looks really casual, but a little thought and planning has to go into it.
Anyway, this okra sandwich is my first in what I hope will be a long, happy list of vegetarian, mostly-vegan, sandwiches. Sandwiches are a great dinner, but I tend to neglect that option for lack of ideas. Time to reverse the trend!
I feel like I ate a version of this sandwich once at Cowgirl Hall of Fame in the West Village; in my memory it was the vegetarian version of their catfish or oyster po’ boy. But I don’t see it on their menu now, so who knows?
We made 4 sandwiches with this recipe, but it’s pretty easy to adjust.
For the okra
- 4 cups sliced okra (I think it was a little over a pound)
- 1 lime
- 1 cup corn meal
- 2 teaspoons mango powder/amchoor (optional)
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- cayenne pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
For the pickle sauce
- mayonnaise or Nayonnaise
- your favorite Indian pickle (we like grated mango)
First prepare the okra. Wash and dry the okra pods, then cut into thin slices. Squeeze a lime over the sliced okra, then sprinkle the salt, mango powder, and cayenne. Add the corn meal and toss it in.
Oil a baking sheet and spread the okra out in the pan. Try not to get a lot of loose cornmeal in the pan because it will burn.
Bake the okra at 375 for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to promote even cooking.
While the okra is cooking, make the sauce. I like mixing equal parts mayo/nayo with pickle.
Assemble the sandwiches! Surprisingly, these keep well, so they work nicely for a brown-bag sandwich, too!
What kinds od vegetarian sandwiches do you like? Any suggestions for future recipes in this category? Let me know!