Sandwiches: Cork's veggie version has a bite
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Diane Gross didn't know what kind of veggie sandwich she wanted to sell when she opened Cork Market last month. But she was very clear about what she didn't want: "something tasteless."
Tasteless was the main characteristic of most vegetable sandwiches Gross had eaten. They're an afterthought, she said: "They just throw a bunch of stuff on bread and call it a veggie option." Gross charged Cork Market chef Kristin Hutter with the task of making one so good that "someone who is not a vegetarian will eat a veggie sandwich."
Hutter, who has worked at restaurants including Citronelle, BlackSalt and Restaurant Eve, knew where to begin. For years, she had been making a ratatouille that included eggplant, peppers, portobello mushrooms and zucchini for summer barbecues and family gatherings. She marinated the vegetables in soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and olive oil; grilled them; then chopped them and served them in an herby vinaigrette.
Hutter decided to use the same base for Cork's pressed vegetable sandwich. She marinates the vegetables for about 30 minutes; no more or they get mushy. Then she grills them for flavor and finishes them in the oven. For bread, she chose a chewy ciabatta, a contrast to the vegetables' soft texture. Hutter brushes the bread with olive oil, then adds a thin layer of fresh goat cheese for creaminess and some house-made pesto for freshness and bite.
The components were easy to put in place. The final step, Hutter said, was perfecting the flavor balance. The marinade adds salt and an acidic pop to the vegetables. But they still need to be seasoned so they are not overwhelmed by the sandwich's other strong flavors. "That's one of the problems with vegetable sandwiches: They just taste bland," Hutter said.
Which is why so many people hate veggie sandwiches. So, how did the team know they got it right?
"We had a dozen tastings where we laid out all the sandwiches and pastries," Gross said. "When the guys were eating the veggie option, we knew it was all good."
The pressed vegetable sandwich is $7 at Cork Market, 1805 14th St. NW, 202-265-2674, http:/
Other great sandwiches