No substitutions are allowed for this sandwich. Switch out the Colby Jack for cheddar? You wouldn’t dare. Use a pita instead of pumpernickel bread so the filling stays intact? Blasphemy. Leave out the sprouts? We can’t be friends anymore.
Seriously, I’ve tried doing all of those swaps and it’s just not the same. The worst experiment was making over-stuffed closed-faced sandwiches instead of smaller open-faced ones. Going Dagwood-style is a guarantee that you will end up with a large glob of avocado/veggie goo plopping onto your lap. Even with the open-face, no matter how you stack the veggies or even layer in some extra sprouts for grip between the tomatoes and cucumbers, eating this sandwich is kind of like playing Jenga with your food. You’re never quite sure if the next bite is going to make it fall apart or not. I need J. Kenji López-Alt to fix my veggie melt problems.
I dunno, maybe I just have some serious cognitive dissonance going on here and I’m only convincing myself that this sandwich is top-notch because, well, I wouldn’t keep making it and going through the hassle of tucking runaway mushroom slices and pepper strips back under the cheese if it weren’t exceptionally good, right?
But really, when you have tangy, toasty pumpernickel bread… Some tomato-on-mayo action… Summer-ripe peppers and cucumbers… Sautéed mushrooms for extra umami… Let’s not forget the avocado…. A healthy handful of sprouts for crunch… And a delicious cap of melty cheese to top it all off… How could it not be worth the messiness? The only way you could go wrong would be by wearing white while you eat it.
Note: If you’re only planning on making 1 or 2 sandwiches at a time, still cook all of the mushrooms and peppers in advance. Everything else can be freshly prepped as needed.
A Veggie Melt That’s So Tasty You Won’t Even Care That It Kind Of Falls Apart When You Eat It
makes 8 open-faced sandwiches, serving 4
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil (maybe more)
- 1 container (8-10 oz.) cremini mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
- 8 slices pumpernickel bread
- 2 medium to large tomatoes
- kosher salt
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 avocado, mashed with a generous pinch of salt
- a couple of thin slices of red onion
- alfala sprouts
- 8 slices (about 1 oz. each) Colby Jack Cheese, each cut diagonally in half
- In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they’ve released their juices and the juices have mostly evaporated. Add the garlic and stir until just fragrant, about a minute. Spoon the mushrooms into a bowl and return the skillet to the burner.
- If the pan is dry, add a little more oil. Add the red pepper strips and sauté until tender and bendy.
- Turn the over to 350º and toast your bread while you prep the other veggies.
- Cut the tomatoes so you have 8 slices that are about 1/4″ thick. Cut each slice in half diagonally. Sprinkle with salt and let them hang out on a paper towel while you finish prepping.
- Slice the cucumber crosswise into 3″ logs, and then lengthwise into 1/8″ slices. Then, cut the slices in half again lengthwise to make strips. Sprinkle these with a little salt too.
- Crank the oven up to broil. Take the toasted bread and spread each slice with a little mayonnaise. Top each with 2 halves of sliced tomato, and then alternate the cucumber and pepper strips on top of the tomato. Carefully spread the mashed avocado on top of the cucumber and pepper, and then layer on the mushrooms, pressing lightly so that they stick to the avocado. Finish each sandwich with a little bit of sliced onion, a generous mound of sprouts, and 2 halves of Colby Jack. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut each sandwich in half diagonally. This is important. If you leave the cheese slice in 1 piece and try to cut the sandwiches after they are toasted, putting a knife through the melted cheese will take down the sprouts and make a landslide of your carefully layered veggies.
- Place the sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.