The cartoonish idea of a stacked-high sandwich is so ingrained in our culture it has a name: a Dagwood, referring to the “Blondie” comic-strip character known for entering a sort of fever dream as he dreams of, assembles and consumes them.
I’ve devoured my share of Dagwoods over the years, and before I stopped eating meat they were of course layered with it, in various forms. More recently, I’ve made a point of trying to demonstrate, now and then, that a vegetarian sandwich can also be hearty and even indulgent – messy in the best possible way.
My latest offering is a wonderfully simple take from the book “Tasty Pride,” a celebration of recipes by fellow members of the LGBTQ-plus community that I’m happy to publicize just as Pride Month closes out. This one is by Amelia Rampe, studio food editor at Kitchn, and it called to me as soon as I landed on its page – and not just because of the touching anecdote that preceded it, about the night Rampe and her daughter came out to each other. The truth is, Rampe speaks my language, the language of sandwich lovers everywhere, by combining a small number of smart, crucial ingredients.
Roast cauliflower – seasoned well and cooked until it’s nicely browned – and sauteed chard provide the bulk. Smoked Gouda, melted on the hot cauliflower after it comes out of the oven, offers richness (as does mayo). Hoagie rolls, lightly toasted, are the backdrop. But it’s Peppadews that seal the deal. These South African pickled peppers are a little sweet and a little spicy, and they elevate any dish they touch, but they’re particularly useful for cutting through fat. They’re the spark that keeps your palate interested, bite after bite, until you look at the crumbs left on your plate and wonder what just happened and when it will happen again.
If all this seems too hearty to you – these sandwiches are not light, and they are not diet-friendly – there’s an easy fix: Cut them in half.
Cauliflower Sandwiches With Smoked Gouda and Peppadews
Adapted from a recipe by Amelia Rampe in “Tasty Pride: 75 Recipes and Stories from the Queer Food Community” by Jesse Szewczyk and BuzzFeed’s Tasty. Clarkson Potter, 2020.
If you can’t find Peppadews – a trademarked brand of pickled, sweet and slightly hot Juanita peppers from South Africa – substitute hot cherry peppers or, for more heat, pickled jalapeños.
1 large cauliflower head (2 to 2 ½ pounds), leaves removed, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 cup (3 ½ ounces) shredded smoked Gouda or provolone cheese (may substitute vegan cheese of your choice)
1 medium shallot (2 ounces), thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch rainbow chard (12 ounces), stemmed and torn into 2-inch pieces
4 hoagie rolls
4 tablespoons mayonnaise (may substitute vegan mayonnaise)
⅓ cup drained and chopped Peppadew peppers (may substitute hot cherry peppers or pickled jalapeños)
Place a large, rimmed baking sheet on the oven’s center rack and preheat to 450 degrees.
Chop the cauliflower into florets. In a large bowl, toss them with 2 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the black pepper. When the oven has finished preheating, transfer the cauliflower to the baking sheet.
Roast the cauliflower for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned on the bottom. Gently toss the florets, then continue roasting for 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown and tender. Remove from the oven and divide the cauliflower into four piles on the baking sheet. Top each pile with a quarter of the shredded cheese and let it begin to melt over the warm cauliflower. Leave the oven on.
While the cauliflower is roasting, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the shallot, garlic, red pepper flakes, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is tender and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the chard leaves, and cook, stirring frequently, until just wilted, 3 minutes.
Slice the hoagie rolls lengthwise almost all the way through, keeping the hinge intact. Place in the oven, directly on the racks, to lightly toast, 2 to 3 minutes.
To assemble the sandwiches, spread 1 tablespoon mayonnaise on the cut side of each roll. Transfer a cauliflower pile and cheese to the bottom half of each roll, then top with the sauteed chard and Peppadew peppers. Close the rolls and serve warm.
Yield: 4 servings
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