Inspiration is a funny thing. It arrives, unannounced, and proceeds to surprise and delight you. It leaves you feeling energized and ecstatic about life. Let other people rhapsodize about love; I will write sonnets about inspiration. And love itself can be an inspiration: who isn’t inspired to be her best by a new love interest?
My inspiration for these Greek Sammiches (much more fun to say than “sandwiches,” don’t you think?) came from two sources. The September 2007 issue of Vegetarian Times has a 5-ingredient recipe for Greek Paninis; I thought it sounded delicious. French bread or rolls are topped with store-bought hummus, frozen spinach that has been thawed, feta cheese, and roasted red peppers. The sandwiches are then toasted, panini-style, in a countertop grill or on the stovetop. I was going to follow the recipe to try these sandwiches, but then I remembered two things: 1) store-bought hummus is expensive and 2) I’m not wild about jarred roasted red peppers. So I used the recipe as inspiration to come up with my own version of a quick Greek sammich.
Rather than purchase hummus, I decided to borrow part of a recipe from Express Lane Meals by Rachael Ray. In the recipe for Tuscan Calzones with “The Works” (pp. 118-119), she gives instructions for a delicious spinach filling in which chopped frozen spinach is thawed, drained, and then mashed with white beans and garlic. The spinach-bean filling is then seasoned to taste with salt, pepper, and olive oil. It sounds humble, but it is really good and nutritious.
I have eaten these Greek Sammiches accompanied by cold Lunar Gazpacho or hot Roasted Potatoes and Carrots (recipe below). Both are delicious. Lunar Gazpacho is perfect for hot weather, while the Roasted Potatoes and Carrots are ideal for making on a cool, rainy night.
Estimated Servings: 5-6
10-oz. box of frozen chopped spinach (thawing instructions follow)
14.5-oz. can of white beans, such as Great Northern beans
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil to taste (a drizzle or so—a tablespoon or less)
Salt and pepper to taste
Nutmeg to taste
A loaf or two of French bread, depending on how many sammiches you want to make
4-oz. container of feta cheese
1 fresh green pepper, sliced into long vertical slices
To prepare the spinach-bean filling:
1) Thaw the spinach by placing it in a fine-meshed sieve and letting it drain into a bowl or the sink for several hours. Alternatively, place the spinach in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for six minutes until it is thawed. Place microwaved spinach in a sieve. Squeeze the extra liquid out of the spinach by pressing it firmly with a wooden spoon while the spinach is still in the sieve. Drain the spinach completely.
2) Place the spinach in a large bowl. Drain the can of white beans and add the beans to the bowl. Mash the beans into the spinach thoroughly. Use your wooden spoon to clean spinach off the masher if it starts to clump too much. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and nutmeg to the spinach-bean filling and stir. Taste the filling and adjust the seasonings by adding more garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and/or nutmeg.
To prepare the sammiches:
1) Slice the French bread into sandwich-sized hunks about 6” or so in length. Slice the hunks horizontally to make a wide slit that almost slices the bread in half.
2) Spread one side of the bread with spinach-bean filling. Depending on how much filling you want, you can be more or less generous in your spreading.
3) Spoon some feta cheese on top of the spinach-bean filling. Again, depending on how much feta you like in a sandwich, you can add more or less cheese.
4) Top sammiches with slices of fresh green pepper. Close the sammiches by pressing the tops back into place and serve.
Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
Serves 1 but can be scaled up to serve more
1 red-skinned potato
1 large carrot
Drizzle of olive oil (~1 tbsp.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2) Wash and dry the potato and carrot. Use a vegetable peeler to remove any bad-looking skin or eyes from the potato. If you prefer a skinless potato, you can peel the whole thing. Otherwise just peel off the ugly stuff. Cut the potato in half and then cut it lengthwise into wedges about half an inch thick.
3) Slice the ends off the carrot. Peel off any bad-looking skin with a vegetable peeler. Chop the carrot into pieces of 2-3” in length. If the top of the carrot is much thicker than the bottom, slice it in half lengthwise.
4) In a small bowl, toss the potato and carrot with olive oil to coat the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5) Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray. Spread the potatoes and carrots on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, turning the vegetables over halfway through their baking. When the vegetables are done, the potatoes will be golden brown and crispy on the outside. The carrots will be a little shriveled and browned on the sides where they touched the pan.