A sub for cheesesteak lovers who dont want the steak

Posted: March 24, 2015 at 9:50 am

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By Joe Yonan Food and Dining Editor March 23 at 10:07 AM

I used to avoid making dishes in which vegetables play the part of meat. You know the ones: The burger made of ground beets, whose crimson color makes the patty look like rare beef. The mushroom medallions that evoke seared scallops. The roasted red pepper thats a ringer for a raw tuna slice.

[Make the recipe: Philly-Style Portobello, Broccoli Rabe and Cheese Sandwiches.]

That resistance was that of a new vegetarian. I was so insistent that vegetables be able to stand on their own, I couldnt embrace any treatment that referenced something theyre not. Even now, a few years into this way of eating, I mostly want to make food that celebrates vegetables on their own terms, for their own sake, rather than see them only through the lens of meat-centric cooking.

But the fact is, some one-thing-acts-like-another dishes are just too fun to skip, especially when they use honest-to-goodness vegetables.

Take, for instance, the Philly cheesesteak. There are countless places in the City of Brotherly Love where you can get a vegan version of it, often made with seitan or another meat analogue, and a soy- or nut-based cheese. And recipes for them abound.

Id rather have something plant-based but a little closer to nature. Id rather use one of the meatiest vegetables around, portobello mushrooms, instead of the meat.

Such a sandwich had been on my to-develop list for quite some time, in fact, when I saw a recipe for the same in the latest Americas Test Kitchen book, The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook (2014).

It comes together easily: Because you slice the mushroom caps thinly, and they retain so much texture when cooked, they evoke the shaved beef that is so crucial to a traditional cheesesteak. The recipe combines them with sauteed broccoli rabe and a finishing touch: shingles of American cheese slices that melt perfectly into the vegetables, turning them into a satisfying sandwich filling. (And by hollowing out the insides of the sub rolls, I increased the filling-to-bread ratio, cutting down on some of the carbs in the process.)

I couldnt think of the last time I had used processed cheese in a recipe. And its presence takes the recipe out of the realm of healthfulness, no doubt. But as an occasional indulgence and a tongue-in-cheek alternative to a real cheesesteak it works for me.

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A sub for cheesesteak lovers who dont want the steak

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March 24th, 2015 at 9:50 am

Posted in Vegetarian