Where's the Beet? Right in These Vegetarian Sandwiches

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Of the countless sandwich varieties in the world, it's safe to say that the majority feature some sort of protein, be it meat, fish, or cheese, as their main ingredient. But not this one. The beating heart—or should I say beeting heart?—of these babies is none other than sliced roasted beets, one of my absolute favorite foods to put between to slices of bread.

Beets may not be an obvious sandwich choice, but if you stop to think about what they add, it becomes clear that they offer everything a sandwich needs—namely, a tender, juicy, flavorful filling that contrasts with the bread in the best possible way. Beets are so tender that they always offer a clean bite, meaning you'll never accidentally pull them out from between the bread with your teeth, as can sometimes happen with meat.

* I realize there's a sizable beet-hating contingent out there that will never agree with any of this, and if you're one of those people I suggest you go read an article about some other non-beet sandwich. There's no shortage of them.

The key to using beets in a sandwich is to balance their natural sweetness as much as possible. In this recipe, I do that by tossing them with plenty of fresh grated ginger, then topping them with tangy crumbled goat cheese and a bright salad made from thinly sliced fennel, chopped blanched beet greens, scallion, and fresh parsley. A little mustard in the dressing adds one more spicy note to keep those sugary beets in check.

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To roast the beets, I just put them in a roasting pan, drizzle them with oil, and cook them, covered, in a 350°F oven until a fork easily slides into the center of each one. As soon as they're cool enough to handle, I rub off the skins with paper towels; that shouldn't be difficult if the beets are fully cooked, but I'd suggest wearing latex gloves if you don't want purple hands for days.*

** "Purple Hands for Days" is a great album title.

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While the beets are in the oven, I take advantage of their edible greens, blanching them until tender. After shocking the leaves in cold water to rapidly halt their cooking, I squeeze them dry and chop them up. They add a tender bite to the otherwise crunchy fennel salad, and are a good reminder that salads—whether on sandwiches or otherwise—need not be limited to raw vegetables.

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The finished beet sandwich may not have the instant appeal of one stuffed with beef, pork, fish, or melted cheese, but it can more than hold its own among those greats.

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