When I stopped eating meat about 15 years ago, I stopped eating sandwiches. Not on purpose, really, but it seemed that most were pretty meat-heavy — Italian mixes and Reubens and French dips and such. If I wanted a meatless sandwich, it seemed like the only option was grilled cheese. My first vegetable sandwich happened accidentally, at the dinner table when I was in middle school. My family was eating beef of some sort and I had, on my plate, the vegetarian offerings from that meal: broccoli and bread. So naturally, I made that into a sandwich. Soon I requested broccoli sandwiches at every meal.
I like to think I’ve evolved since then, and so have sandwiches. Vegetable sandwiches are no longer a novelty, but a regular item on restaurant and deli menus, enjoyed even by meat-eaters. Vegetables are pickled, roasted, grilled or raw and thinly sliced, layered with hummus, goat cheese, fried egg or fresh mozzarella, topped with a vinaigrette, a lemony dressing, or nothing at all; the juices from the vegetables soaking into and flavoring the bread. Kelsey Nixon’s Grilled Vegetable Panini is one such sandwich — it combines grilled vegetables (Kelsey calls for mushrooms, peppers, zucchini and yellow squash, but you can use whatever you like. Add asparagus, Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash or eggplant if that’s what you have on-hand), with a creamy herbed feta spread on ciabatta, pressed in a panini maker or between two skillets until it’s warmed through and the flavors of the grilled vegetables meld with the cheese forming a dressing — no mayo needed here.