I used to love Italian subs. You know the kind that were like four feet long and served on a two-by-four? I miss those. I’m not saying I miss eating meat. I definitely don’t. But, I guess Italian subs are just a good memory for me. My family always had them at any kind of casual party. The last Italian sub I had was at my high school graduation party which was about 6 years ago.
When you miss a non-vegan food that you ate a lot growing up, it’s 110% necessary that you veganize it ASAP. For my version of an Italian sub, I marinated slices of eggplant in a salty fennel seed marinade and roasted them in the oven. I roasted a couple of bell peppers, threw together some vinegar and olive oil for the dressing and added shredded lettuce and thinly sliced tomatoes to a crunchy toasted ciabatta loaf. This is completely optional, but I also decided to use some sliced vegan cheese.
The outcome of this sandwich was a lot better than I had anticipated. Although it isn’t a classic Italian sub, it has all the necessary flavors. The fennel seed marinade is salty and smoky like pepperoni. Although roasted peppers aren’t normally on Italian subs, they are very welcome in this sandwich. The vinegar dressing is the cherry on top. Let’s begin.
- 1 small eggplant cut in slices about ¼ inch thick
- ¼ cup temari or soy sauce (preferably low sodium)
- ½ tbsp red wine vinegar
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, roughly ground
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tbsp paprika
- One large sub loaf, I used ciabatta
- 2 roasted red bell peppers, cut in big slices (you can use jarred ones)
- 1 tomato, sliced thinly
- about 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce, or other lettuce of choice
- 3 - 4 slices of your favorite vegan cheese (optional)
- a couple leaves of basil, shredded (optional)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (balsamic will work too)
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp paprika
- a ¼ tsp each of salt and pepper
- Begin by slicing your eggplant and add them to a medium sized deep bowl or container. Mix together the rest of the ingredients under "for the eggplant." This is the marinade. Pour this over the eggplant and set it in the fridge, covered, for 30 minutes.
- While your eggplant is marinating, it would be good to get your peppers roasted and your other veggies prepared.
- Preheat your oven to 400 F. When the eggplant is done marinating, toss the marinade and pat the eggplant slices dry. On a parchment lined baking sheet, lay the eggplant slices in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.
- Open your sub bread at the cut and set it under the broiler to get the inside toasted. Keep an eye on it, and take it out as soon as it's done.
- Combine all ingredients under "for the sub dressing" and whisk it together.
- Start off by layering the lettuce on the bottom half of the sandwich and drizzle the dressing on top of the lettuce. Next add the tomato slices, then the optional cheese, the roasted eggplant, and then the roasted red bell pepper. If you like basil, you can then add the optional shredded basil on top of the red bell pepper and close the sandwich.
- Slice into individual sandwiches and serve!