December 22, 2011

Farmers Market Sandwiches: Spiced Cauliflower Sandwiches with Pickled Carrots and Roasted Leek Mayo

As you may have read in earlier posts, my roommate Damiano and I sell sandwiches at the bi-weekly Wesleyan Farmers Market. They're great sandwiches and we love being able to provide Wesleyan students with a local, student-prepared lunch. But before we start selling the sandwiches, we start planning (and planning and planning) the sandwich.

We usually start the process about a week before the market with some idea in mind. Sometimes that idea is that we want to do something with beets, or something with cauliflower, or something with romesco sauce. It's usually not much more specific than that. Sometimes we don't have any idea at all.

With an idea in mind, we then think about what seems like a natural pairing for our main ingredient, using ideas from cookbooks and produce lists from Urban Oaks Farm, a local farm we use to source produce. As our ideas brew we take a trip to the grocery store and pick up ingredients to make a few test sandwiches, buying an extra zucchini here or some ricotta there just incase they turn out to be the missing ingredient in the sandwich.

Bags full of testing materials, we head back home to our kitchen where we begin preparing the ingredients. If were making a sauce, say a roasted leek mayo (below) for a sandwich, we'll usually make a few variations on it to see which works best - say adding lemon zest and chili powder to one version. We then try the sandwich with every variation of ingredients, having our friends help choose which one is best (...there seems to always be a ready and willing brigade of friends ready when we're testing sandwiches).

Usually, if the sandwich is good, we know right away which variation is the best. It's just clear as day. We will try variation after variation and then all of the sudden one of us bites into the right sandwich and we get all silent and just start nodding our head, and that's the one. That's exactly what happened with the sandwich below, and it really is a winner.

After that, we start ordering the ingredients, the bread from the bakery and the produce Urban Oaks Farm, other local farms, and picking up any other odds and ends from the grocery store. The night before the market, we pick up the ingredients and prepare everything in a kitchen near the university. The next morning, we pick up the bread (gotta have it fresh!) and get ready our signs and tablecloths and whatever else we need for the market. We make a point of making the sandwiches themselves right in front of the customer at the market, which can mean that the line gets a little long sometimes, but the sandwiches are fresh and the customers appreciate knowing exactly what's going into their lunch. It also means that we get to chat with the students and faculty and Middletowners who come and pick up a sandwich.

One of our favorite sandwiches recently was this cauliflower sandwich. It might not sound like much, but it really is a fabulous combination - between the hearty cauliflower and rich roasted-leek mayonnaise its plenty substantial, balanced with bright pickled carrot strips. Make sure you use the best baguette you can find for this. Our's comes from Howard's Bread in Chester, CT. Howard claims its the best bread this side of the Atlantic. He just might be on to something with that. It sure makes for a mighty fine farmers market sandwich.

Recipe below.

Spiced Cauliflower Sandwiches with Pickled Carrots and Roasted Leek Mayo
Makes 6 sandwiches

-2 baguettes, cut into three pieces
-1 recipe Pot-Roasted Cauliflower with Harissa (click for recipe)
-1 leek
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-salt and pepper
-1 cup mayonnaise
-Pickled Carrots (click for recipe)

1. To prepare leek mayonnaise: Set oven 350. Cut off green top and root from the leek. Cut in half lengthwise and clean under running water to remove any grit, and dry. Place on a baking sheet lined foil and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake 15-25 minutes until fully cooked and soft (it will shrink considerably in size). Allow to cool and transfer to a cutting board and slice into thin pieces. Mix with mayonnaise in a bowl.

2. To assemble sandwiches: Slice the head of cauliflower into 1/2 inch slices and break apart the cross-sections into smaller pieces. Cut the thirds of baguette in half length wise. Spread on some leek mayonnaise onto the bottom piece of bread and top with cauliflower and a few sticks of pickled carrots and more salt and pepper. Top with other piece of bread and eat it!