I love sandwiches. As a kid, I insisted on making my own school lunches. I would wake up a little earlier, so I could warm up the processed deli meat on the stove, melt a certain infamous popular brand’s plastic cheese slices, wash the lettuce and pat dry it, spread the mayo and mustard on wheat bread that was toasted on the stove top, carefully slice the tomato, sprinkle dried herbs and spices all over the bread, and put it all together. My brother used to be so impressed with my sandwich making skills, he was say with certainty, “You’re going to be a good mom.” Those were the days.
Now, I make sandwiches using vegetables from the farmer’s market, real cheese made from organic milk, fresh bread from a local bakeshop, homemade condiments, and sometimes organic chicken breast. I do not use deli meat for a variety of reasons. Deli meat contains a lot of preservatives and ingredients that are not good for humans or animals. Just take a look at the ingredients on the package of deli meat and see how much of it is really meat and how much of it is questionable. The sodium alone in deli meats should make you alarmed, as this kind of sodium is proven to increase the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. Nitrates and nitrites have been linked to cancer is numerous studies, but results are inconclusive. The difference between processed meat and unprocessed meat largely lies in the amount of sodium and nitrates and nitrites in each type of meat. Also, processed meats contain sugar and refined starches.
This is not to say all deli meats are bad for your health. A local deli that cures and preserves their own meat, using higher quality ingredients and leaving out preservatives, might fare better in the health department. Though, there have not been any studies comparing deli meat from industrial companies who use low quality meat and ingredients to deli meat from shops that use higher quality meat and higher quality ingredients.
For health, economical, and ecological reason, I suggest limiting your intake of deli meat. Unless, if you find a delicatessen that makes their preserved meat with higher quality ingredients. I tend to make only vegetarian sandwiches, using real vegetables and not processed fake meats. I especially love sandwiches in the summer, because of the abundance of hearty, meaty vegetables like zucchini and eggplant.
Summer’s Eggplant and Zucchini Sandwich
- 2 slices whole grain bread (1 slice per sandwich)
- 1 small eggplant, sliced into rounds
- 1 small zucchini, cut lengthwise
- 1/2 cup baby spinach
- 1-2 small tomatoes, sliced
- 1 medium bell pepper, cut in half and cored
- 2 large lettuce leaves or chard
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Toss eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, and tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
2. Cook the vegetables in a nonstick or cast iron pan for 5-8 minutes, turning once. The vegetables should be tender. Add drops of water to the eggplants as needed, so they do not burn or stick to the pan.
3. Meanwhile sprinkle olive oil on your bread and toast over the stove or toaster, until golden brown.
4. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the bread.
5. Place the baby spinach on top of the bread and then layer with the cooked vegetables.
6. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and basil over the vegetables.
7. Wrap the lettuce leaves around the top of the sandwich, so everything stays in place.
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