We’re into the season of veggie harvest and hearty soups! Food writer Chris Perrin brings two new vegetarian recipes to the table (haha!) to keep good company with your soup bowl… If you’ve been following his tasty contributions here each month, you’ll know that Chris has a cook’s certification from the Kansas City Culinary Institute, writes for BIAO Magazine, food-blogs at Blog Well Done, and is working on his own vegan cookbook. Enjoy!   ~ Jen

chris perrin Pumpkin Panini and Apple-Seitan Sandwich

Despite the fact it signals the end of the growing season, Fall is the time for one last culinary celebration. Gone are the spring vegetables, the tomatoes, and the peaches. Still, every autumn, the Earth erupts forth in a great bounty of fruits and vegetables in such great quantities that the ground must know it will produce nothing for the next five or six months.

Okay, that might be a little overly dramatic, but how else can you explain the flood of apples, cranberries, pumpkins, squash, and other gourds that invade grocery stores across the country every October? The problem, though, is that most of Fall foods are usually thought of as desert (pumpkin pie) or are much maligned (cranberry “sauce” from a tin can.) Even the most inventive thing done with the mighty apple tends to be chopping it up and throwing it into a salad.

Photo: jslander

That all changes today. Today, we are going to elevate Fall fare into the fantastic. We are going to make sandwiches! (And they’re going to be veg friendly, too.)

Pumpkin Panini

Pumpkin is a nutritious vegetable that really does not get the credit it deserves as a savory ingredient. When roasted it has a satisfying, meaty flesh that has a subtle earthy flavor and is not nearly as sweet as you might think. This particular sandwich is paired with good mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomatoes, and basil for a pumpkiny twist on an Italian favorite.

• 1 small sugar pie pumpkin or about a pound of regular pumpkin
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• 16 sundried tomatoes
• 12 basil leaves
• 1 loaf of vegan bread, cut into half inch slices
• 4 tablespoons of vegenaise or mayonnaise
• 1 medium tomato, sliced thinly
• 1 cup of shredded mozzarella (vegan or regular)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Prepare the Pumpkin

Wash the outside of the pumpkin thoroughly and pat dry. Cut into quarters and remove the seeds and stem. Coat with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Bake the pumpkin for forty minutes or until fork tender. Remove and set aside to cool. Once cool, cut into thin slices roughly the same width as the tomato. You may choose to remove the pumpkin’s peel or leave it on as you choose.

Make the Spread

As the pumpkin is roasting, prepare the sun dried tomato mix. The idea is to have a chunky spread, not a sauce. To make it, put the sun dried tomatoes, two tablespoons of the tomatoes’ oil, and the basil into a food processor and pulse. Add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time until it reaches a consistency you like.

Make the Panini

Construct the sandwiches by taking a slice of bread and spreading a tablespoon of vegenaise on one side and a quarter of the shredded cheese on the other. Starting this way will help to water proof the bread for the cooking ahead.

Stack the pumpkin, one-quarter of the sun dried tomato spread, and two slices of tomatoes on the cheese side in that order. Sprinkle a little kosher salt on the tomato and top with the other slice of bread.

Finally, to make this a panini, pull out a skillet and coat in a bit of your favorite nonstick cooking spray or olive oil. When the pan gets hot, put two sandwiches on it and press them with a second skillet or a cookie sheet weighted down with cans. Cook this way for two minutes, then flip sandwiches and cook them weighted down for two more minutes. If the mozzarella is not fully melted, put the sandwich in the oven for a few minutes.

Serve with pumpkin bisque for an awesome pumpkin meal.

Apple/Seitan Sandwiches

Photo: mharvey75

Many years ago, before I stopped eating meat, my friend V introduced me to this sandwich, which she made using good mild summer sausage. I have changed it to use seitan, my favorite of the vegan “faux meat” products.

• 1 package store bought seitan
• 2 tablespoons sausage spice mix or 1 tablespoon each of black pepper and thyme and a pinch of red chili flake
• ½ cup of Dijon mustard
• ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
• Hard rolls or French bread cut into quarter inch slices
• 1 apple, cut into long slices
• 4 slices Swiss cheese (vegans: use vegan parmesan)

The first thing to do is change the flavor profile of the seitan slightly. Because seitan is an Asian dish, it is normally flavored with soy sauce, but that flavor can be lessened by boiling the seitan. Also, boiling tends to soften seitan and make it easier to chew.

To do this, bring a pot of water to boil. Use water, not broth, but flavor the water with sausage spice mix. Boil the seitan for about 5 minutes. Take it out of the water and bring back to room temperature.

While the seitan is cooling, mix the mustard and the cider vinegar in a bowl with a whisk.

Construct the sandwiches by covering the bottom of a roll or a piece of bread with seitan and adding a piece of cheese, a few slices of apple, and topping with the mustard/vinegar mix.

For more of what is going in Chris’ lunchbox, on his dinner table, and on his party menus, as well as thoughts on food and culture, food in the media, and even the occasional recipe featuring meat, check out Chris’ food blog, Blog Well Done.

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