WHEN WE ARE PUSHING HARD to get the garden “open” for spring or “closed” in autumn, my trusty helper and I come up with incentives—usually in the form of food. “Treats,” we call them, or “employee benefits”—whatever it takes to get to the finish line despite the to-do list that’s far too long for too-few hands. “Let’s make the Reubens tomorrow,” she said, after a relentless day of chores, and the next work day we did. Vegetarian Reuben sandwiches, specifically; hold the corned beef.
I know; this recipe doesn’t involve garden-fresh produce the way I do it (though I do make dill pickles from my own cucumbers–and I’m including a vegetable-using variation, too). But I wanted you to know that I go a little crazy diet-wise sometimes—all in the name of the garden, of course. As Reubens go, though, these are pretty tame.
The George Foreman grill I received years ago, when I was a guest of my former boss on “The Martha Stewart Show,” figures into the recipe. But you could use a heavyweight (get it?) seasoned cast-iron pan, with another heavy one or a brick as a weight to press the sandwiches down while cooking. The entrepreneurial ex-heavyweight champion had been a guest on the television show, too, and everyone in the audience got gifted a grill.
I don’t have many kitchen gadgets, or much counter space—and was going to give it away, so I put it in the garage, where my garden helper saw it. And hence the Reuben sandwich tradition, our most indulgent employee benefit, began.
vegetarian reuben sandwich
Guaranteed to spur exhausted gardeners onward (or send them straight to the nearest lawn chairs for a long nap).
- bread, preferably whole-grain rye
- mayonnaise (I use an organic olive-oil based one)
- dill pickle, chopped
- a Swiss-like cheese
- tempeh, sliced thin (optional; my friend David, proprietor of CrossRoads Food Shop in Hillsdale, New York, eschews the tempeh in favor of thin, pre-cooked slices of seasonal vegetables, such as turnip or summer squash or celery root)
- small amount of olive oil or butter if you don’t have a well-seasoned or anti-stick grill pan of some sort
- If you want a protein-rich sandwich and more meaty “tooth” to the filling, slice tempeh thinly and brown it in a frying pan. The tempeh is optional… or roast thin-sliced zucchini, turnip or celery root just till tender first.
- Put the sauerkraut in a strainer to drain.
- Make the dressing, chopping the pickles and mixing with some mayo and a dash of ketchup to taste.
- Slice the cheese.
- Brush one side of each slice of bread lightly with oil if you are without an anti-stick grill or well-seasoned pan. (With the gifted grill, we use no oil or butter.)
- Assemble the ingredients—cheese, sauerkraut, dressing, tempeh if desired—onto the bread.
- Grill, weighted down with the grill lid or another heavyweight pan or some other heavy object. Turn if needed (again, with the grill that isn’t necessary).