During our graduate school winter break we took a trip to Los Angeles to visit Marnina’s uncle. We were eager to experience Los Angeles’ vibrant culinary scene. In addition to the usual Malibu, Venice Beach and Santa Monica sightseeing, Marnina’s uncle provided us with quite the culinary tour. We sampled Indian, vegan Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and American cuisine. We even hit up the famous Magnolia Bakery (yes, the banana cream pudding was UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS). While partaking in one of L.A.’s new fads, personal piea, at a cafe called SimpleThings, Marnina grabbed the menu (she loves to bring home menus). The menu included many delectable sounding sandwiches. The combination of ingredients in each sandwich sounded so gourmet and unique that we anticipated returning to the shop and trying their sandwiches. Unfortunately we were not able to make it back before we left town. To compensate for our loss (and because Marnina saved the menu), we vowed to recreate the best sounding sandwich on their menu – The Sweet Potato.
Marnina and I are often disappointed with sandwiches at gourmet sandwich shops. They often sound great in concept but fail in execution. However, after attempting to recreate this sandwich in our home, we can honestly say it exceeded our lofty expectations.
The sandwich consists of grilled sweet potatoes, apples, jammy onions, chevre spread, avocado, and cumin coleslaw on a pretzel roll. We are convinced that it is one of the best possible combinations of flavors. The complex collage of flavors and textures all just melt in the mouth. Most of the ingredients are soft (the grilled sweet potato, jammy onions, goat cheese and sliced avocado), and these ingredients are contrasted nicely with the crunchy tartness of Granny Smith apples. Normally a sandwich packed with such a diversity of flavors muddles out individual flavors, but each bite combines such a perfect melody of flavors: the tanginess of the chevre, the sweetness of the caramelized onions, the tartness of the apples, and the salty pretzel roll that is soft and yielding to the other ingredients.
For our recreation, we omitted the cumin coleslaw because Marnina cannot eat raw vegetables, but you can substitute anything else that provides that extra crunch. We also didn’t know how the sandwich shop made their jammy onions, so we improvised and made red-wine and balsamic-infused onions. That is the beauty of sandwiches – they are so modifiable and easy to adapt to any diet. If you are lactose intolerant you can substitute non-dairy cheese or maybe even hummus for the chevre spread. Have trouble digesting onions? You can try using leeks instead. If you are gluten-free, then you can use gluten-free bread or the ingredients inside the sandwich could just be thrown into a lettuce wrap.
Nutritionally, this sandwich is a great vegetarian options. Most of this sandwich consists of vegetables that provide a good amount of healthy fats and other nutrients. Chevre (also known as goat cheese), is a great alternative to cow’s milk cheese because it is usually lower in calories when compared with most other types of cheese. Goat cheese usually has about 25% less fat and calories than most other cheeses. Also, people who are lactose intolerance may be able to better digest goat cheese because the fat molecules in goat cheese are shorter, making them more digestible.
Pictures and recipe below:
Sweet Potato Sandwich
(Original idea from SimpleThings, but modified by Marnina Cowan and Seth Coburn)
Yield: 4 servings
- 4 pretzel rolls (we used homemade pretzel rolls, but you can easily buy pretzel rolls in the store)
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- 2 granny smith apples, sliced into bite-size pieces
- 1 hass avocado, sliced into bite-size pieces
- 2 onions, sliced into half rings
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 oz. goat cheese
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt to taste
1) Preheat the oven to 425 F.
2) Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the sweet potato rounds with 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, flipping half way through.
3) Meanwhile, put a medium non stick pan over medium high heat, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and onions, and saute for 3 – 5 minutes, until the onions have softened. Add salt, pepper, basil, and oregano, and mix well to combine.
4) Put heat up to high, and add red wine. Allow the red wine to bubble, and mix the onions well to coat them in the wine. The wine will soften the onions, and will be absorbed almost completely by them. Once the onions are softened, pour in the balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine, and allow to bubble for a few minutes.
5) Add about 1/4 cup water, and bring the heat down to medium. Simmer the onions for at least 10 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. If the onions are not soft enough, add some more water and bubble away again. Each time you add more water, the onions will get jammier.
6) Once the onions are a good jammy consistency, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
7) To prepare the sandwiches, spread goat cheese on the inner sides of the bread, then layer on the avocado, apple, sweet potato, and onions. Feel free to layer the ingredients however you like!
The ingredients in the sandwich can be served cold, hot, or you can follow the recipe closely and do what we did: serve the sweet potatoes and onions hot and the avocado and apples cold.
Source for nutrition information: http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/indepth.food/dairy/compare.cheese.html