Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

An early Mother's Day surprise came to my door this week. A lovely gift from two of my adopted troops serving in Afghanistan. Each has a mom of his own, yet they teamed up to make sure I knew how much they enjoyed being part of my family and reading all the dorky letters I send them every couple of weeks. I've written them for what seems like eternity and love each of them dearly. I pray every day for their safety and that God bring them home soon.

Spring has sprung,
The grass has riz.
I wonder where
The flowers is?

I'll tell you where the flowers is. All over my yard, all over town, all over Southern California, and also sitting on my kitchen table. The glorious colors of spring. They make me happy just to look at them. My iris's are in bloom, so are my amaryllis, so too the azaleas, and even the invasive poor man's orchid is boasting a large crop of look-alike cymbidium orchids. The red geraniums are spashing color against my brick wall, the verbena is spilling over the edge of my herb pot and the daylilies are budding. It's just plain exciting to go outside and walk the yard each day, snooping to see what's new.

But this is a blog about food, right?

This past week I poked around three different grocery stores. Since the frig was pretty much empty, it was a chore I had to do, whether I felt like it or not. Turned out to be an eye-opening adventure. The shelves were full to overflowing with fresh greens, peppers of every color, cucumbers so fresh from the field I swear I could still see early morning dew on them, all manner of summer squash and local strawberries, so big and fat and red and affordable that customers were hauling them away by the box fulls. The winter avocados are plentiful, Hass by name, and the only one worth paying for in my estimation. Right now the Hass is inexpensive enough to lead me to believe California must have produced a bumper crop this year.

Was all this magnificence the result of so much rain this winter? Or sunny days of warm temperatures? Were farmers fertilizing more often or planting seeds meant to produce the jolly green giant of crops? I can't remember a time when the shelves were so full of lush vegetation good enough to eat. Even with California's year around growing climate, the stores seemed unusually full of plump, juicy things fresh from the earth. Just walking the aisles was as good as opening the door to The Secret Garden, albeit filled with veggies rather than flowers.

As I inspected each store and its bulging produce, I found that I wanted some of everything. However, sanity reigned as the farm kid in me knew that a week's worth of fruit and veggies wouldn't remain fresh and tantalizing sitting in my refrigerator. But what to choose? I was now hungry for it all. That was when I began thinking about how many of those veggies I could actually pile into one sandwich. A Dagwood kind of sandwich. I practiced unhinging my jaws, but to no avail. I would have to content myself with a mouth-size veggie experience. I didn't think it would be easy. I was wrong.

I should have taken the photo before I cut the sandwich. I should also have left the toothpicks in to hold the whole thing together. But alas, I didn't. This sandwich is messy to eat, but most tasty--which makes having to use about six napkins worthwhile.
 Everything But The Kitchen Sink Vegan Sandwich

2 slices grainy wheat bread, fresh and pliable so it can bend without breaking
1/4 cup hummus. I used regular but it's your choice
1 buttery avocado, preferably Haas
1 red onion, sliced as thin as possible
1 red bell pepper, roasted, with skin and seeds removed
1/2 of a cucumber, sliced long ways into strips
1 fresh tomato, sliced
Kalamata olives, sliced thin
Sprouts. I used Daikon radish sprouts for their puckery tang

Spread hummus on both pieces of bread. Use it all as it's the protein I chose for this sandwich
Slice the avocado and lay it atop the hummus on one piece of bread
Add as much red onion as you wish.
One whole red pepper goes next
Now add as many strips of cucumber as you wish. I used a lot because I love cucumbers
Add the sliced tomatoes
Toss the sliced olives atop the tomatoes
Add the sprouts. As many as you wish. I put about an inch worth atop mine
Lay the other piece of bread/hummus atop the whole creation. Use toothpicks to hold it together.

Remember to salt and pepper lightly as you build the sandwich. Each level should be full of flavor. I drizzled a smidgen of a really good extra virgin olive oil over the top of my sprouts. Don't get heavy handed; it will make the sandwich greasy. No olive oil on hand? Use a good Italian salad dressing.

I ate every single bite and enjoyed it all. For dessert I peeled two tangerines, so sweet they were just short of being candy. A cup of tea finished it all out. I rolled into the kitchen to clean up, decided I was too full to move, and left everything in the  sink for another day. You can do stuff like that when you live by yourself because the dog and four cats never complain.


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