The vegetables of summer are steadily dropping off their vines and sliding back into the sun-soaked recesses of memory. Much as I look forward to fall–rain, endive, leaves, rain, a hiatus from mowing the lawn, endive, rain–I still crave the crisp, succulent, almost arrogant freshness of a veggie sandwich: all that is vegetal between the savory bookends of bread and cheese. And nothing loves a great salt like a veggie sandwich. My favorite: Amabito no Moshio (藻塩) is an ancient type of Japanese salt, called shio.
Shios are identifiable by their fine, snow-like texture. Their firm, intensely mineral backbone lends a delicacy and brightness to food, much as acidity supports definition and complexity in wine. Amabito no Moshio is the granddaddy of shios, created some 2,500 years ago in what was then more or less a neolithic Japan. Seaweed was hauled out of the water by fishermen and dried on the rocks, then sprayed with water, then dried some more, then sprayed some more, etc. etc. until a now salt-encrusted seaweed could be rinsed to make a saturated brine. The brine, along with bits of the kelp, would then be boiled off over a wood fire, resulting in a delicately seaweed-infused salt. Today, The Meadow’s Amabito no Moshio, made with the hondawara variety of seaweed (Sargassum fulvellum) is inspired by that tradition. If today is your day to celebrate the veggie sandwich–perhaps your last true fresh veggie sandwich of the year–do it with the proper reverence, and with a last backwards glimpse of summer’s sunny sanctity.
Vegetable Sandwich with Amabito no Moshio
Makes 4 servings
8 slices black bread or pumpernickel
1 teaspoon horseradish (optional)
4 ounces (8 tablespoons) cream cheese
½ bunch watercress, large stems trimmed
8 thin slices ripe tomato
2 thin slices red onion, halved
1 cup mung bean sprouts
24 thin slices cucumber
½ avocado, cut in 8 thin wedges
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Small grind of black peppercorns
4 three-finger pinches Amabito no Moshio sea salt
Spread the (optional) horseradish very sparingly over each slice of bread. Spread the cream cheese on one side of each slice of bread. Top four of the slices with a small fistful of watercress, two slices tomato, a half-slice red onion, ¼ cup sprouts, six cucumber slices, and two slices avocado.
Mix the olive oil and vinegar and spoon a small amount over the vegetables. Season each sandwich with a grinding of pepper and a three-finger pinch of Amabito no Moshio sea salt. Top with remaining cream cheese and bread and serve immediately.