I'm a big fan of loaded main-course sandwiches, whether it be a classic eggplant parm, a fiery banh mi full of pickled vegetables, or a pan bagnat stuffed with fatty tuna and rich olives. Lately, I've also become obsessed with the Mexican torta: a killer sandwich that usually features some kind of pork or chicken cutlet heaped with crunchy iceberg lettuce, piled with spicy jalapeños, and served up on a soft white roll slathered in mayo.
Although I do occasionally eat meat, I long ago learned that vegetarian is the way to go with a torta. You see, I absolutely adore queso Oaxaca—a firm, salty Mexican string cheese that's the default option when you order a meat-free sandwich. This cheese is not only totally underutilized, but it also meshes particularly well with soft, ripe avocado slices and helps cushion the blow of a bite of piquant pepper.
The beauty of these sandwiches is that they're dead-easy (and inexpensive) to prepare: in the time it would take you to head out to your favorite Mexican joint and order a torta, you could make five of these in the comfort of your own home. I beef my tortas up, so to speak, with a creamy black bean spread accented with cumin; then pile on the cheese, avocados, and cooling lettuce. My secret? I quick-pickle my jalapeño slices, which brings even more complexity to these totally satisfying sandwiches.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a graduate student of journalism, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.