Sunday, June 24, 2007

V is for Vegetable Cheese Sandwiches

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.
A reminder about the X of Indian Vegetables: Two weeks from now will be the turn of the letter X. This represents a challenge for this series, and calls for another loophole, I think! In mathematics, the letter X represents an unknown value. X is the letter of mystery, so here is the challenge for X: Choose any fruit or vegetable that is unknown to you...either you have never tasted it, or never cooked with it. Then, use it in any dish of your choice that uses Indian flavors. Here is your chance to scour your grocery store or farmer's market, or go find some exotic ethnic store in your town, and try something fresh and new, do some Xploration! It should be Xciting :) Do you have to take up this challenge for this letter? No, if you come up with something else that fits the X theme, that would be welcome too!

The "V" of Indian Vegetables
The letter V inspired twenty-seven vivacious Indian flavors!

First, an incredible variety of V Vegetables.

Let's start with the royal, voluptuous eggplant, known as Vangi in Kannada, the language of the Indian state of Karnataka, and in Marathi, the language of Maharashtra, and also known as Vankaya in Telugu, the language of Andhra Pradesh. There are dozens of delicious ways to prepare this vegetable, and here is a tasty selection, ranging from the creative to the traditional.

First, an innovative appetizer. Coffee from The Spice Cafe falls in love with an appetizer served at a wedding feast, then rushes home to recreate it, resulting in these delicious bite-size stuffed Eggplant Rolls.

Next, two simple, home-style ways to enjoy pan-fried eggplant...

TC from The Cooker dredges thick juicy slices of eggplant in seasoned flour and pan-fries them to make these golden, crispy Vangyache Kaap.

Manasi from A Cook At Heart sprinkles spices and flour on to perfect eggplant rounds and fries them to a savory finish, then serves them with plain toor dal (varan) to make a double V comforting meal of Vangi Kaap and Varan Bhaat.

Then comes an eggplant puree that can be served as a dip or a side-dish. Aarti from Aarti's Corner bakes eggplant, then mashes it and seasons it to perfection to make a dish of smoky and smooth Vangyacha Bharit.

Now for a couple of eggplant curries...

Linda from Out Of The Garden makes a classic combination: she cooks eggplant together with sprouted beans and a home-made spice mixture to turn out a tantalizing platter of Vangi ani Val.

Hima from SnackORama uses her mom's tried and tested recipe for a tangy tamarind-tinged curry made with mashed smoky eggplant, Vankaya Pulusu Pachadi.

The final eggplant dish is a savory rice. Here are four different ways to make this crowd-pleasing combo:

Raaga from The Singing Chef loves Vangi Bhat so much that she made sure it was served at her wedding feast.

Asha from Aroma/ Foodie's Hope shares an aromatic home-made spice mix for making her version of Vangi Bhaat.

Dee from Ammalu's Kitchen comes from an eggplant-loving clan, and makes her Vangi Bath as a Father's Day gift.

Aarti from Aarti's Corner makes a typical Maharashtrian style Vangi Bhaat.

The next V vegetable is the okra, called Vendakka in Malayalam, the language of Kerala, and Vendakai in Tamil, the language of Tamil Nadu.

Raaga from The Singing Chef turns okra into a cooling salad with a spicy tempering with her tempting recipe for Vendakka Pachadi.

Laavanya from Cookery Corner turns the vendakai (okra) and some vellapoondu (garlic) into a spicy, tangy curry called Vendakai Vathal Kuzhumbu.

Then come the tiny verdant pearls, green peas or Vatana as they are called in Gujarati, the language of Gujarat. A stash of frozen peas can come to the rescue when vegetables are running low in the crisper! Richa from As Dear As Salt promises dinner on the table in 15 minutes flat with this everyday curry of peas, potato and tomato, Vatana Bateta Tametu Nu Shaak.

Now for a whole bunch of vegetables are quite unusual. First up are the sturdy and tasty hyacinth beans, called Valor Papdi in Gujarati. The valiant duo Bee and Jai from Jugalbandi cook this vegetable with some fenugreek dumplings to make a fragrant and tempting dish of Valor Muthia nu Shaak.

Then comes Vazhakkai, which is plantain in Tamil. This starchy cousin of the banana is cooked in many delicious ways in Southern India.

Suganya from Tasty Palettes blends shredded plantains with a spice mix to make a bowl of Vazhakkai Podi that would be perfect with rice.

Sheela from Delectable Victuals combines two popular ways of cooking the plantain with her delicious stir-fry of plantains cooked in tamarind sauce and tossed with a nutty mixture to make Vazhakkai Mezhukku Varatti.

G V Barve from Add Flavor mashes cooked plantain together with spices and fries up some golden fritters called Vazhakai Vadai.

The next "vegetable" is the Vazhaipoo, the Tamil term for the banana flower. Prema from My Cookbook shares a family favorite: Vaazhaipoo Kola Urundai is made by frying balls of cooked banana flower to golden perfection.

Now for a bright green leafy vegetable that is new to me: Verdolagas or purslane. Suma from Veggie Platter tells us that this leafy vegetable is used in traditional Andhra cuisine and shows us how to make some delicious Verdolagas Dal.

Well, the final V in this category is the general term Vegetable itself! Mixed veggies find their way into many delicious dishes...

Laavanya from Cookery Corner makes a dish with Indo-Chinese flair, tossing vegetables with aromatic ginger and garlic and a medley of colorful vegetables to make this platter of Vegetable Noodles.

Swapna from Swad makes a dish with North Indian spices, making her own aromatic spice mixture to be cooked with rice and vegetables into a flavorful Vegetable Pulao.

Aruna from The Mistress Of Spices makes a dish with a South Indian touch, combining chunks of juicy vegetables with a fresh paste of herbs and spices to make a huge tray of delicious Vegetable Baath.

Now for a V food that is very popular all over India: the term Vada is a general term for a fried patty or a fritter. Aarti from Aarti's Corner makes one version which is a popular street food, mashed potato fritters served in a bun. Take a big bite of this Vada Pav!

Time for some specialty dishes...

Veppilai Katti is an unusual condiment, a thick citrus-based paste. A Cook from Live To Cook thinks back to good times with her grandmother and recreates the Veppilai Katti, lovingly hand-pounded with a mortar and pestle.

Vatali Dal is a dry lentil-based dish that is generously garnished with coconut and cilantro. Sandeepa from Bong Mom's Cookbook makes a delicious bowl of Vatali Dal while thinking back to her days in the city of Bombay.

Varan is a term for a simple preparation with toor dal. Here are two variations on this...

Dhana from Fresh Kitchen makes an Indian version of soup-and-dumplings. This ultimate comfort food, called Varan Phal, or perhaps more commonly as dal dhokli, is made by cooking little squares of dough in a pot of simmering dal.

Finally, another varan recipe from Saylee D., who has her own stock market blogs but is now sharing a recipe for Varhadi Varan: Varhadi refers to food from the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. This is a tangy dal, and the sour taste comes from the use of the seed of the raw mango (a wonderful illustration of how to use every last bit of the mango without being wasteful). Here is Saylee's recipe, in her own words:

Ambat Varan

1 cup toor dal (cooked with turmeric)
1 raw mango seed or koy
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
5-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tablespoon jaggery
1 tsp kala masala(goda masala)
1 tsp chilli pwd
1 tbsp of corainder to garnish
oil 1 tbsp

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a saucepan. make the tadka with mustard and cumin seeds add the asafoetida and curry leaves to it.Add the raw mango seed and then add the cooked dal to it. Now add the masala,chilli pwd ,jaggery and salt to it. Add some water to make it desired consistency. Bring it to boil.

Let it boil for some more time to let the sour flavour of the raw mango in the amti. Add some jaggery if you feel to balance the sour sweet taste of the amti.Garnish with coriander and the amti is ready.

V is for Vegetable Cheese Sandwiches: Mixed Vegetables

The V of Indian vegetables is dedicated to the medley of vegetables. In Indian cuisines, much importance is given to the creative pairing and combinations of vegetables. While singly prepared vegetables have their own taste and simplicity, mixed veggies have their own uses. The combination can result in a dish that is more colorful, especially useful for brightening up certain veggies that don't have very bright hues. It can result in a dish that is more flavorful, with the tastes and textures of the components playing off each other. Certainly, the pairing of certain foods can result in a more nutritious dish. The combination can also be used to "stretch" a more expensive or rare vegetable. Personally, I love having recipes for mixed vegetable dishes in my repertoire for one simple reason: it allows me to use up all the bits and bobs of vegetables before I go food shopping again, and results in less waste of valuable food.

When I first planned this series, I envisioned the V of Indian vegetables to be some rich and royal mixed vegetable dish. I thought I would cook up a big batch of Vegetable Makhani, a selection of vegetables drenched in a sweet and spicy, buttery and luscious tomato-onion-cashew gravy. But the V week rolled around, and the summer solstice announced its arrival with the mercury rising sky-high, and I knew that I was in no mood for vegetable makhani. I don't think I could bring myself to eat something that rich and heavy, leave alone spend hours in the kitchen cooking it!

So this is Plan B: a summer-special post of vegetable cheese sandwiches. When I think of all the food on this planet that I consider to be sublimely craveable, a simple sandwich of bread and cheese would be pretty high on the list. Add vegetables to the sandwich, and you have a winner! Here are three favorites of mine. All three sandwiches are designed to be thrown together in a jiffy, and to be eaten in a jiffy too, which accounts for the hasty photographs taken seconds before the sandwiches were devoured. A sandwich or two, washed down with a tall glass of something cold (iced coffee or tea, or fruit juice) is the perfect summer meal.

Three Vegetable-Cheese Sandwiches

The Cheese: I love the mild taste of Monterey Jack cheese, and I usually buy Pepper Jack cheese (containing bits of pepper) for the extra kick. You can use whatever cheese you like, although semi-hard and hard cheeses like Swiss, cheddar etc. would work best. In India, as far as I know, Amul cheese is the most readily available brand.

The Bread: I personally cannot stand the sliced bread sold in the US. I stick to bakery-style rolls and loaves, usually French or Italian breads. Use whatever type of bread you like best. Needless to say, whole wheat / multigrain bread is more nutritious than white bread.

The Vegetables: There are some veggies that I always seem to have on hand, and since these sandwiches are rarely a planned meal, those are the ones you find in these recipes. But it would be fun to experiment with other vegetables in these sandwiches too.

1. Grilled Cheese, Indian-style!

I had almost forgotten about this gem, until Lulu reminded me of it recently with this post.

1. In a bowl, combine 1 packed cup shredded cheese, 1 fresh chili (minced), 2 tbsp onions (minced), 2 tbsp cilantro (minced), 1/4 cup bell peppers/ capsicum (minced) and a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper.
2. Slice 4 rolls in half horizontally. Spread with a little butter (optional). Stuff each roll with 1/4 portion of the spicy cheese
3. Place on a skillet sprayed with oil. Weigh the rolls down by placing a heavy skillet on top of them to result in a well-pressed sandwich (you could also used a sandwich press or panini press). Toast the rolls until golden brown and crisp, by which time the cheese will be melty and fabulous. Serve hot!

2. Vegetable Club Sandwich, Street-style!

This is the sort of sandwich that is sold on the streets of Bombay. Needless to say, it has tremendous crowd-pleasing potential!

You need...
Green chutney (see some recipes here, here, here and here, or use your own favorite recipe; chutney should be quite thick and spreadable)
Bread rolls/ slices
Sliced vegetables (boiled potato, tomato, cucumber)
Shredded cheese
Softened butter
Chaat masala
Salt and Pepper
1. Slice the roll in three parts horizontally. Toast the bread lightly. To freshen store-bought rolls, I sprinkle them liberally with water, then place them in a hot toaster oven for 5-10 minutes. They are as good as new!
2. On the lowest slice, spread ingredients as follows: butter-chutney-potato-chaat masala.
3. Top with second slice, then spread with chutney-cucumber-tomato-salt-pepper-cheese.
4. Top with buttered third slice.
5. Serve with your favorite chips, if desired (you can see sweet potato chips in the picture).
Note: The cheese in this sandwich is entirely optional.

3. Cheese Vegetable Toast

I have very fond memories of this treat, an open-faced sandwich that is simple, and simply delicious. My school hours were in the morning, so I would be back home for lunch, but my parents would always pack me a filling snack for the mid-morning break. This toast would find its way into my tiffin-box fairly often, and it was always enjoyed down to the last bite. A variety of veggies are mixed together into a filling, using some shredded cheese and boiled potato to hold them together. The mixture is patted on to sliced bread and then toasted on a skillet. When the filling is face down, the cheese melts and browns with beautiful results. The onion, carrrot and peppers in the filling don't need to be cooked, of course, but I like to steam-cook the beans, cauliflower and peas slightly (a minute in the microwave is perfect). I also use the microwave to cook the potato quickly and with the minimum amount of water (prick the potato all over with a fork, then wash well, wrap loosely in a sheet of paper towel, and microwave for 3-5 minutes, turning once or twice in between).

You need...
Boiled potato (1 small)
Veggies that are steamed: Green beans (trimmed and cut into thin slices), peas, grated cauliflower (about 1 cup total)
Raw Veggies: green pepper (capsicum), onion, cilantro, carrot, spinach
Shredded cheese
1/2 tsp red chili powder (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Mix everything together in a bowl.
Press the filling on to slices of bread. In a lightly oiled skillet, place the sandwich filling-side down. Let the filling become golden, then flip over and let the bread toast well. Serve with ketchup for the most kid-friendly finish!

Here is a bonus vegetable-cheese sandwich idea, Cheese Tomato Toast that my uncle Bhushan in Bombay makes: Slice cheese into thick slices, slices some juicy fresh tomatoes into thick slices. Now assemble: slice of bread-slather of butter-cheese slices- tomato slices- salt and pepper- top with buttered slice, then toast in a sandwich toaster until golden. This sandwich is simply heavenly when tomatoes are in season (like right now)!

What is your favorite vegetable sandwich? Care to share any ideas?

Here are some delicious Mixed Vegetable Dishes from fellow bloggers:
Vegetable Cutlet from Priya's Kitchen,
Mixed Vegetable Chutney from The Green Jackfruit,
Mixed Vegetable Parathas from Aayi's Recipes,
Charchari from Bong Mom's Cookbook,
Vegetable Korma from Sugar and Spices,
Spicy Vegetable Pulav from Masala Magic,
and one from my own archives, Mixed Vegetable Biryani.

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
N is for Nargisi Kebab: Vegetables and Eggs
O is for Onion Chutney: Vegetables in Chutneys
P is for Pattagobi Pachadi: Vegetables in Salads
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickles: Vegetables in Pickles
R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables
S is for Spinach Amti: Green Leafy Vegetables
T is for Tomato Red Pepper Saar: Soups
U is for Undhiyu: Regional Delicacies


  1. Hi Nupur,

    I think you have outdone yourself with this one -- just look at all those fabulous sandwiches! If those are 'rushed' photos, I can certainly understand why... I'd want to deVour those tasty treats as soon as they hit the plate.

    The 'street-style' club sandwich looks particularly yummy on a hot day like today.

    Thank you for taking the time to round up so many delicious "V"s! :)

  2. Lovely Sandwitches Nupur..
    Thanks for sharing! :)

  3. Nupur, these sandwiches are more appealing than a big batch of vegetable makhani in this weather. I will do anything to run away from the heat of the kitchen :)

  4. Delicious recipes Nupur! I also have the same recipe for grilled cheese sandwich, tastes awesome! great post as usual...I had recipes for both 'U' & 'V' of Indian vegetables, but had a really busy week. Hopefully next week I will be able to participate.

  5. I am going to try all three today. I have just the right ingredients in the right quantities i.e one of each :)) Would love to add paneer to these too ! Thank you for the wonderful recipes Nupur.

  6. Thanks for yet another great round up. Those sandwiches look positively scrumptious too. --Jai

  7. Hi Nupur,
    Lovely pictures and mouthwatering sandwiches....
    I am a bread girl loves anything & everthing bread. Will try all of your recipes. Thanks

  8. All the sandwiches look fab!
    Adding potatoes to sandwiches is such a Mumbai-thing!
    Great round up, as usual.

  9. Such wonderful looking sandwiches - I can't wait to try them all!

  10. Mouth-watering selection of sandwiches there Nupur and this beats the Vegetable Makhani you had planned initially - hands down.

  11. Nupur, the roundup keeps getting better and better! I immediately made myself a grilled cheese sandwich on reading ur post! G8 job!!

  12. Nupur, thanks for visiting my blog.
    The roundup is excellent.I liked the sandwiches,would love to try them :)

  13. Beautiful roundup and the sandwiches look yummy. Viji

  14. Hi Nupur -
    My favorite grilled cheese sandwich is with gorgonzola cheese, tomato and caramelized onions. Sometimes I add pepperoncini for a kick, but now after reading through your recipes, I'm tempted to use a spicy chutney!

  15. Hi Nupur!
    Sandwiches are really super.....and the round ups are so great!!

  16. Lovely sandwiches! So glad I don't have to choose a favorite -- it would be impossible, as they all look delicious.

  17. Nupur,
    Those sandwiches look so good, esp'ly the veg-cheese toast. Last night, I made your instant appey - they were really good. Thanks for the recipe. The anon in the previous post is me - looks like the name didn't go thru'.


  18. Nupur! It s said 'Variety is the Spice of life ' - you have exceeded our expectations with the 'v' word- ! all the three Vs - Variety , Variation (improvisation) and Valor ( trying out new ideas)!i forwarded all the vegetable sandwiches receipes to my two girls ( both busy moms) so they can avoid working long hours in the kitchen ! Thanks so much for making this blog so interesting and so useful.

    keep up the good work !

    Dale looks so winsome - i luv his shining coat and his meditative 'eyes'

    love and hugs

  19. Linda, you should have seen us scraf down that club sandwich :D

    Arts, thanks for stopping by!

    Suganya, yes, I am trying to use the oven and stove as less as possible!

    Tee, I have wanted to take part in many events this week too, but just did not get the time! I totally understand :)

    Priya, paneer would indeed be a lovely addition!

    Jai, glad you like them!

    Madhu, I would say I am more of a rice girl, but I do love bread too :)

    TC, yes, bread and potatoes together! Only in good ol' Bombay :)

    Cathy, let me know if you do!

  20. Laavanya, glad you like them!

    Dhana, :D there is something about grilled cheese sandwiches right? They are so good!

    Archana, thanks for stopping by!

    Viji, thanks :)

    Vicki, ooh...caramelized onions sounds sooo good, I'm going to try your combo for sure! Thanks for sharing your idea.

    Usha, thanks :)

    Lydia, my favorite changes according to my mood :) Right now, the weather is right for the club sandwich.

    Mamatha, glad the appey worked out! Thanks for letting me know!

    Anon, thanks!

  21. Hi Nupur!! Great round up!! and MOUTHWATERING sandwiches!!
    Reminds me of all the variety one gets in mumbai!! I was transported back!! Too good!!

  22. You inspired me! I made a version of the open faced sandwich today - In addition to your base ingredients I added fresh cilantro, a tiny bit of mayo, some chaat masala and a fresh green chili, and it was sooooooooooo good. What a lunch. I love grilled cheese in any form, but these are lighter and healthier and will no doubt become a staple for me. I can't wait to try the others.

  23. Dear Nupur,

    Those s'wiches look yum. I have yet to make those appe. You are one superfast woman. I loved your post on Dale (especially your H's comments). Thanks for coming in my life and enlighting me with these superb recipes. It was a great decision on your part to start
    blogging your recipes.


  24. Loooooove those sandwiches Nupur...the last one beckons me ;)
    My favorite used to be shredded paneer mixed with finely minced onions and salt between bread slices and grilled to perfection.

    Just a cautionary note on cheese that I discovered only recently. Most of the cheese here in USA contains rennet obtained from animals. Since I can only eat halal meat, I am in the same predicament as vegetarians when it comes to animal free products.
    I hope I am not offending you by providing you with this information.

  25. Great sandwiches Nupur...they look simply superb...and your round up is good...can't wait for the rci - maha round up..


  26. I tried your grilled cheese indian-style last night...used ciabatta rolls (I share your sentiments on sliced breads sold here in the US!, a mixture of horseradish cheddar, feta and parmesan cheeses and also added some boiled potatoes. It was a wonderful meal! Thanks, Nupur. I have been a big fan of your blog for a while now. You do a great job!!

  27. fabulous post, nupur! and what fantastic pictures.

  28. I tried the varadhi varan was turned out good. thanks Nupur & Saylee :)... cant wait to try the sandwiches....

  29. Hi! I love coming back to your blog again and again.. the funny part is, I go thru all the recipes, pics and then order a pizza online :) :) :)

    Dropping in a line just to say ur blog is a great job....

    Incidentally, I assembled the bombay sandwich today taken from your blog ... it turned out great..



  30. Vegetable cheese sandwich is the best sandwich i ever made!! Excellent recipe . Thankyou very much.


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