Found today when cleaning up some computer files- an entry written in October of 2009, when I was just starting to find my own feet cooking-wise, learning to experiment and stray from recipes to develop my own taste and style. I was with my friend, Katie, who’s just moved to Spain (the lucky thing), and on this evening in particular, we came back from a long, crazy day in the city collecting flyers and stickers and free rainbow chapstick, and were just about starving for something good.
Katie wielded the camera as I stripped the shelves and drawers of all vegetables. I pulled out a bag of firm red peppers and four bunches of asparagus, four yellow and green zucchini, and found two huge red onions (I love when they’re as big as wheels!) in the pantry. I did end up broiling the zucchini separately, but we decided to make sandwiches.
We started off quartering (and again) the peppers, and cutting the onion into thick chunks, and laid them out- along with the asparagus- on baking trays. I drizzled a good deal of olive oil over the vegetables, until they were soaked, and followed up with a decent sprinkle of sea salt and black peppercorns. I laid out the asparagus so each stalk touched, side-by-side, and both trays went into the oven, set to broil.
I used to be one of those onion-slicers who would cut and weep. My eyes would be small and sore for hours afterwards, and often, I just had to abandon the task entirely. Last year, I read that the sharper the knife, the less you cry, which seems obvious in retrospect. Something about the faster and smoother the slice, the less essence released into the air. I’ve always been attracted to onions and their taxing ways; I think handling one says something about how you tackle life, and I’ve always said I would fall in love with someone who could eat a whole raw onion straight. My brother, Malcolm, found me an excellent trick recently for cutting onions, and I did it for this dish, to Katie’s camera curiosity and, consequently, a collection of bug-eyed, puffy-cheeked photographs that will never appear here. Fill your mouth with water and swill it vigorously around while slicing. No crying!
Each tray only takes a few minutes, so don’t stray from the oven. Katie and I made pot after pot of Barry’s tea to stave off our appetites while waiting. We turned each vegetable once- this was easy with a spatula for the peppers and onions- and particularly painstaking with the asparagus, as each one needs to be individually turned over. I used two forks.
We assembled the sandwiches on Italian bread rolls: pesto, cheese, onions, ham, peppers, asparagus. I love delis. I love tomato pie, smoked meats hanging from the ceiling, homemade sausages, pepperonis, full hams and legs and thighs in the back room just waiting to be run through that hand-powered slicer. I read recently that delis are going out of business with the relatively recent health-food craze. I think we forget that Stromboli yes, is gorgeously greasy, with those layers of cheese and meat and fat, but it’s okay as a sometimes food. I don’t know what I’d do in all my Philadelphia streets of hometown delis, chock full of long white dishes of potato salad, pasta salad, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese… All things that aren’t favorites, or even close, but so comforting in their consistency and full, hearty tastes. Carlino’s is one such deli, but appears to be run by the Italian mob, so I don’t think it’s going out of business any time soon. Its doorway is always crowded by stout men in suits smoking and talking in low voices, ordering meatball grinders, yelling out for a selection of beef, Wedding Soup like mama made. And its Rosemary Ham is fantastic- delicately flavored, but for a girl who hates ham, it’s enough of a subtly in flavor that I’m in love.
Honestly, all we could find in the fridge was mild American cheese, so that’s what we used. If I’d had a choice, I would have gone for some Pepper Jack or Munster. Even Swiss, if you’re partial, would have been better. But even as it was, the vegetables were fresh out of the oven, so the cheese melted deliciously into the rest of the sandwich.
The broiling itself sounds incredibly simple, but it is so delicious, especially with fresh vegetables! Also, they’re an excellent leftover, and if a big batch is cooked up earlier on in the week, they can be refrigerated and eaten plain (or with a sprinkle of cheese), or if you want, used for lunch wraps or as a topping for rice or pasta, etc. I ate them on everything for the next few days until I had to go back to school.
Roasted Vegetable, Rosemary Ham & Pesto Sandwich
Italian Bread rolls
red bell peppers
cheese of choice
freshly ground black pepper
pesto (either from a bottle or scratch)
As described above, quarter veg, snap ends off asparagus, drizzle on your olive oil. S & P. Broil.
Smear both sides of sliced bread roll with pesto, and then layer on half a slice of cheese, 3-4 sheets of rosemary ham, 1-2 quarters of roasted bell pepper. Top with a few stalks of roasted asparagus, and then the other half-slice of cheese. Press down bread roll top.
If you’d like, you can either warm the sandwich in a skillet (PAM first) on low for a bit, or microwave it for a few seconds- just to get the cheese to fully melt, so the sandwich fuses together. This recipe can obviously serve as many people as you’d like, but for calories and cost, let’s go with two eaters, Katie and me.
2 Italian Bread rolls- $0.80
1 red bell pepper- $1.25 (or free, from your garden!)
10 asparagus spears- $3.00
2 slices American cheese- $0.50
1/2 red onion- $0.30
half packet rosemary ham- $1.50
Wegman’s pesto- $1.50
olive oil- pantry
2 Italian Bread rolls- 480
1 red bell pepper- 30
10 asparagus spears- 30
2 slices American cheese- 120
1/2 red onion- 30
6 slices rosemary ham- 180
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil- 180
2 tbsp Wegman’s pesto- 95
The total number of calories is 572.50 per person. A little much for lunch, but fine for your end-of-the-day meal, especially if it’s an exercise day. Total cost for two people is $8.85.