Since I was three years old, I was obsessed with the state. I am not sure where the fascination exactly started. What show or movie I saw that starting the wheels spinning in my brain. California meant sun, sand, ocean, palm trees, and happy faces. I began telling people I was moving there since that age. I maintained the same plan, “I am moving to California and I am going to live on a horse farm”.
The horse farm idea fizzled out somewhere around eight but my love for California never died. Silly to say I didn’t get a chance to actually visit California until I was 25 years old. I fell in love the minute I stepped off the plane. It was like my heart was always searching for a place to make a home. This sun drenched place with its soft winds, blue skies, and salty ocean air was where I fit.
I adore Milwaukee and my home state of Wisconsin (and miss it often) but I never felt like I quit fit in. Every time Jake and I left to go home, my eyes would well up with hot tears, knowing I couldn’t live anywhere else. My last day on the second visit to San Diego, we strolled to the end of the pier. As I watched the waves roll in, a school of wild dolphins decided to swim past. Leaping and playing, it was like kismet. Ludicrous, but I felt like it was a special sign for me. An approval from the world to move to San Diego.
Seriously, the dolphin story is legitimately true, a cinematic moment in all of my adulthood. Jake says it was bound to happen because that is their habitat (obviously) and I say it was meant to be. The similarities in our personalities is staggering, am I right?
After that trip Jake and I never looked back. We moved to San Diego a year later, and we have never regretted it. Magical dolphin anecdotes aside, our love for this city is strong. I love everything about my new home, including its ingredients. I have always admired Californian cuisine, and its use of the very best produce. I have never tasted tomatoes like the tomatoes I gobble up at an obsessive amount here. The creamy, fatty avocadoes are something I constantly crave. Everything about the produce here makes me excited to an almost abnormal amount.
But let’s be honest people, I am the type of person to spend two hours in a spice aisle. Not very normal.
I have been making this sandwich for about four years now. It was an idea that quite honestly was birthed from a lack of ingredients in the house. Back then, I always had a very good sourdough bread on hand, always, ALWAYS a basket of avocadoes, and a can of “emergency beans”. My favorite refried beans are Amy’s Organic. Nowadays, we rarely have bread in the house, BUT Jake has been begging for this sandwich for almost a year. We nicknamed it the “California Sandwich” because of the thick refried black beans, which resembles the abundance of delicious Mexican food found all over the city. Tomatoes and avocado because duh, best in the country. Sprouts for freshness and a pop of extra healthy which is the legendary theme in Californian cuisine. Pepper jack cheese, because everything is better with cheese.
Despite it being a vegetarian sandwich, which, in most cases is a crime in Jake’s eyes, it is one of his very favorite sandwiches. This grilled cheese-like sandwich is rich, flavorful, and even though it is warm, it still tastes fresh and light. I outline the steps below, there is a very specific way to layer the sandwich so that everything sticks together and doesn’t slide all over the place. You can use any type of bread with this, but I suggest a great sturdy sourdough, or a gluten-free white bread. I love the mountain white bread from Canyon Bakehouse, it is gluten-free and totally tasty when toasted.
I bet this would taste great in a sub sandwich, but I would keep the beans warm and everything else cold. I love pairing this sandwich with a side salad, particularly with a nice vinegary dressing. A side of tomato soup is perfection as well.
When you want something super filling, different, and utterly delicious, look no further than this sandwich. You may not get a dazzling display of leaping dolphins, BUT you will be a step closer to California living with these flavors!
California Sandwich (Grilled vegetarian sandwich)
Author: Allie Brendel
Dense, cheesy, rich, and fatty without grease, this is one of the tastiest vegetarian sandwiches.
Makes: 4 sandwiches
- 8 slices of gluten-free bread OR sourdough bread
- 1 cup refried black beans
- 8 slices of tomato (about 2 medium tomatoes)
- 1 large/jumbo avocado
- 1/2 cup of shredded pepperjack cheese (or any other melting cheese)
- 4 teaspoons of mayonnaise (I use Sir Kensington's)
- 1-1/2 cup of sprouts (I like the spicy sprouts)
- Salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- Optional: Garlic powder, lime juice
- Make the sandwich ingredients: Smash the meat of the avocado with a little salt, pepper, and *optional: lime juice. Slice the tomatoes into thin, manageable slices.
- Build the sandwhich using these steps, use about 1/4 cup of the black beans, mix with a little salt, and spread it on a piece of bread.
- Then spread out some of the shredded cheese (about 2 tablespoons or a little more). Carefully layer 2-3 tablespoons of the avocado on top of the cheese.
- Layer the tomato slices on top of the avocado, season with a little pepper, not salt as this will extract more of the juices.
- Spread 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise on the other slice of bread. Sprinkle/smush the sprouts down upon the mayo spread.
- Carefully slide the slice with the sprouts and mayo on top of the bread with the beans and other ingredients.
- Heat a cast iron skillet on medium low, and splash the pan with grapeseed or olive oil (enough to make up for the lack of butter).
- Gently put the sandwich onto the pan and cook until the side is golden bread about 3-4 minutes. You want to make one sandwich at a time, or a maximum of two. To ensure you have enough flipping room and they crisp evenly.
- Turn the sandwich with a large spatula and cook the other side. An additional 3-4 minutes until golden brown and all of the ingredients are heated throughout.
- When the sandwhich is pulled off, sprinkle the sides with salt, black pepper, and a little garlic powder.
- Pair with tomato soup, veggies and dip, side salad, or some garlic sweet potato chips.