Who would have thought that my father was 20 years ahead of the culinary times? When we were little our vegetarian family would eat these little hoagies. Those are “subs” to you folks who mistakenly call them subs. My mother, who is a fabulous cook, could often imitate things at home when she tried them eating out. Even it if wasn’t an exact replica, she would be able to reconstruct the essence of the meal that would make us want to have it again.
Growing up in Philadelphia we would get these hoagies from delis around us. They would give us a look when we ordered one with no meat, secretly excited since they get to keep their meat. I think some softer hearted persons would feel that more cheese was in order and would give us a hoagie laden with slices of slices upon cheese which would make for a disconcerting texture. As fun as it might sound, biting into a really thick slice of cheese is not good for your soul.
This of course has nothing to do with the main story. I tell you this because my mother would recreate an even better version at home and she nailed what we loved about the hoagie.
Of course an Amoroso roll was used, shredded iceberg, white american cheese (yes, it had to be white) and a concoction of mayo, red wine vinegar and olive oil with dried oregano and very thin slices of onion and sweet peppers (which I am really sad to say, I cannot find the ones to my liking here in the West Coast)
I tell you this not only because it hits a nostalgic pang in my stomach but also because my father and the rest of our family would differ in the following: He would want all the items on the roll then toasted. For some reason the wilted lettuce turned my stomach and my obliging mother would make his with the lettuce toasted first then ours afterwards.
I remember the look on his face, the same look I get when I am very much enjoying the food I am eating. We were sitting at our dining room table eating a very unhealthy meal of Doritos, soda and these hoagies when I realized my father was quiet. He leaned slightly back in his chair, consumed with a deep satisfaction that comes from eating exactly what you want made how you you imagined. He leaned back and blurted with all urgency and purity, “I love toasted lettuce!”
Being the horrible angsty pre-teen I was, I laughed at him. I think it was more the fact that he felt this was an issue of right and wrong. I, not having the palate that would appreciate “toasted lettuce” nor the insight that I might in fact also exclaim that I liked toasted lettuce 20 years into the future, argued with my father.
Well, the day has come when I can exclaim that I like toasted lettuce. I like it so much that for a whole week I made this for dinner. It of course had nothing to do with the fact that myself and my husband took it upon ourselves to grocery shop without telling each other and bought two whole bags of romaine hearts.
In the dead of winter… I know that no one feels sorry for a Californian to have to eat a cold dinner in a California winter (in my defense my body acclimated so I still feel cold during winter even if it is in the 50s) I didn’t want to eat cold salads and I had a time limit. Salad greens wait for no man before they die.
I felt that maybe it was time to give grilled romaine a go. I tried it and guess what, my stomach didn’t turn. You could say it did a somersault with joy. I didn’t realize what I was missing and Dad you were correct. So, you read it here. When you recant this story I would ask that you do not use the term hypocrite. I prefer to be called open minded instead. Thank you.
- 1 romaine heart per person
- 5-6 mushrooms
- 1 small zucchini
- shaved parmesan
- a protein of your choice (we used roasted chickpeas)
- olive oil
- sherry vinegar
- lemon zest and juice
- salt and pepper
- Grill the vegetables of your choice or the ones we listed over a hot grill pan.
- Make the vinegrette 1 part acid to 2-3 parts oil depending on how zesty you want it.
- Set aside the grilled veggies.
- Cut the romaine heart in half and grill on high heat for 1 minute then take off the pan and place on a serving plate.
- Toss grilled veggies, your protein and some grated or shaved cheese on top.
- Pour dressing on top and enjoy