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Classy Open-Faced Veggie Sandwiches

Spinach, Caramelized Onion & Roasted Pepper Open-Faced Sandwiches from Vegetable Literacy

Spinach, Caramelized Onion & Roasted Pepper Open-Faced Sandwiches from Vegetable Literacy
I can never, ever pass up the opportunity to make a recipe that involves caramelized onions. Are they a pain to make? Kind of. Do they take for-freaking-ever to cook down? Absolutely. But they are always worth it. When I was given a list of recipes from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy to choose from for this post, my eyes immediately went to the open-faced sandwiches topped with caramelized onions. There was no way these wouldn’t be delicious!

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah MadisonCaramelized Sweet Onions
The sweet onions and thick slices of roasted red pepper paired perfectly with the salty cheese and earthy spinach. And aside from the time it took to caramelize the onions, these sandwiches were easy to make too. This is why I love Deborah Madison’s cookbooks—they elevate vegetarian cooking beyond veggie lasagnas and burgers, but in a way that’s not intimidating to the average cook.

Caramelized Onions on BreadVegetable Literacy

Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes was released this week and I was lucky enough to get a copy to review. As a vegetarian (and a fan of Deborah Madison’s work in general), I appreciate this book for its inspired recipe ideas, but as a gardener, I loved this book for the background it provided about different vegetables. Vegetable Literacy isn’t just a cookbook, you see, it’s a reference book too, dividing vegetables into different families (The Sunflower Family, The Cabbage Family, The Grass Family, etc.). Each vegetable receives its own write-up, with information about its origin, different varieties, and tips for cooking. If you have Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, this format with information about each vegetable followed by tips and recipes will be familiar to you. And if you love Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, you will love Vegetable Literacy too. Like Deborah Madison’s other books, I know this one is going to be well-used in my kitchen.


Classy Open-Faced Veggie Sandwiches

Spinach, Caramelized Onion & Roasted Pepper Open-Faced Sandwiches from Vegetable Literacy

A rustic open-faced sandwich from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.

  • Yield: 2-4 servings 1x


  • caramelized sweet onions (2 large onions is perfect—here’s a post on how to caramelize onions)
  • 1 hefty bunch of spinach, at least a pound, stems removed, leaves well washed
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 meaty roasted red peppers
  • 1 piece of bread per person, such as ciabatta, rye, or a whole grain levain bread
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • thinly sliced manouri or ricotta salata
  • olive oil, to finish


  1. Warm the caramelized onions in a pan over low heat.
  2. In another pan, wilt the spinach in the water clinging to its leaves, then season it with salt and pepper. Slice the peppers into wide strips.
  3. Toast the bread, then rub one side with the garlic. Cover with the onions, followed by the spinach, the cheese, then the roasted peppers set diagonally across the top.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.


Reprinted with permission from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. Copyright © 2013 by Deborah Madison. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of Vegetable Literacy for the purpose of this review. The links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links, so if you were to make a purchase from them, I would get a small percentage of the sale, which may or may not be used to purchase elegant wigs for my cats.

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  • Reply
    Liz @ A Nut in a Nutshell
    March 14, 2013 at 8:54 am

    You made the right choice. Those look positively mouthwatering.

  • Reply
    Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste
    March 14, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Your photos are stunning! I can only imagine how tasty these beauties are in real life. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Anele @ Success Along the Weigh
    March 14, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Oh my, you know anything with caramelized onions is good in my book!

  • Reply
    Kare @ Kitchen Treaty
    March 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

    These are so pretty (and look pretty delicious, too). That cookbook looks like a winner. On the list.

    Your disclosure statements crack me up. Not just wigs for your cats … *elegant* wigs for your cats. (And, yes, I looked at the site. Thank you for tonight’s nightmares. 😉 )

    • Reply
      March 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      I really do want to get a wig for Miso because I’m convinced that he looks like one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and I need a blond wig to prove it. Um, yeah. Anyway. Definitely check out this cookbook! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 9:28 am

    1. Thank you SO much for linking to (and making) the post about how to caramelize onions! I knew in my head that it must take forever but I was never sure so I didn’t want to waste my time and always ended up turning the heat up. Thank you! 2. You make being a vegetarian look AMAZING! I say this almost every time I post! 3. I love your photography! Tell me your secret!

    • Reply
      March 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      Yeah, you have to be super patient because if you turn up the heat, they sauté instead of caramelizing. Which is still delicious, but it’s just not the same. 🙂 And everything I know about photography I learned from Plate to Pixel by Helene Dujardin. I highly recommend it!

  • Reply
    Meghan @JaMonkey
    March 14, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Yummy. That bread looks awesome too. A great lunch option

  • Reply
    shelly (cookies and cups)
    March 14, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Yeah caramelizing onions is a pain in the hiney, but oh so worth it…throw in some carbs and cheese and this might be the perfect sandwich! The spinach is optional, right? 😉

    • Reply
      March 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      Ha! You know, I’m not a big fan of spinach either. I put a little less on mine and my husband was happy to take the extras. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sarah @ Play 2 Learn with Sarah
    March 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

    That looks so good! And I may need to purchase the book just to get you some more wigs for your cats! LOL

    • Reply
      March 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      Thank you! My cats will appreciate it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Katie (The Muffin Myth)
    March 14, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I love caramelized onions! They’re one of the best things ever. We make a pizza where we caramelize 4-5 onions and cook them down forever, then spread them over the pizza crust and scatter with a bit of soft goat cheese and maybe some salty olives. Little open faced sandwiches would be a great casual quicker version of that (except of course the time that it takes to caramelize the onions). This cookbook is on my must-buy list, so I’m glad to get a peek at one of the recipes 🙂

    • Reply
      March 14, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      I make a pizza like that too–always with olives, never with goat cheese. 🙂 I have such a weakness for that sweet and salty combination. You will love this cookbook!

  • Reply
    Courtney @ The Fig Tree
    March 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    *snorts* Love the cat wigs! 🙂

    Sandwiches are my obsession as of late. I’m craving them constantly. I will definitely have to make this one this week. Love the caramelized onions! I think I have all of the ingredients minus the cheese. I think I have some goat cheese I could use though. I must check out that cookbook! I own two other Deborah Madison books and really enjoy them.

    • Reply
      March 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      I have been on a sandwich kick too! I have all these sandwich recipes to post here, but I’m trying to space them out so I don’t come off as obsessed, even though I totally am. 🙂 Goat cheese would definitely work on this sandwich. Really, I think just about any cheese would do.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Kiersten, I drooled on my keyboard (again). This recipe looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Yum, I love caramelized onions and this looks like a great way to use them. Beautiful photos too!

  • Reply
    Meg @ Beard and Bonnet
    March 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    These sandwiches look so amazing! I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this cookbook so I am happy to know that you enjoyed it.

    • Reply
      March 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Me too! I first found out about it in January and I was counting down the days until I got my copy. 🙂 It is worth the wait!

  • Reply
    Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today
    March 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    I can hardly go through the process of cutting onions without running nose and crying, but fortunately my partner does not mind 🙂 I love the sandwiches and can’t wait to make it on breakfast!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      I used to have the same problem, but then I got contact lenses and it never happens to me anymore! I guess they must protect my eyes. 🙂

  • Reply
    Cassie | Bake Your Day
    March 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Great concept for a book. I love the sounds of it. And these sandwiches – perfect!

  • Reply
    [email protected]'s Recipes
    March 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    These open sandwiches look so delightful, Kiersten. I LOVE caramelized onions!

  • Reply
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl
    March 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    These are totally calling my name. Not only do they sound delicious, but they are so pretty too! Nice job :).

  • Reply
    Alissa N
    March 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Wow these look incredible!! I love caramelized onions, my only issue with them is lack of the ability to spell the word caramelized without spell check yelling!! I’m so excited to check out that book though, it sounds like it’s awesome and I was not familiar with her work before this!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm

      Definitely check out some of Deborah Madison’s books–I’m sure your local library probably has a ton of them! (If I sound like a library PSA, it’s because I used to be a librarian–ha!) She’s kind of like the Julie Child of vegetarian cooking. 🙂

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    March 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    The images are stunning and what a great message in the book (elevate vegetarian cooking beyond veggie lasagnas and burgers, but in a way that’s not intimidating to the average cook.)

    I love the little slices of red peppers, too. Beautiful!

  • Reply
    Bernadette @ Now Stir It Up
    March 14, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    These look and sound so good. I love carmalized onions and roasted red peppers?? YUMM!

    I saw that cookbook somewhere the other day and almost bought it. Funny how things come up!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Next time you see it, you should buy it! 😀 I’ve bookmarked so many recipes I want to make–I love it!

  • Reply
    a farmer in the dell
    March 14, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    one of my greatest pleasures in life is standing over the stove caramelizing onions. I crank up my music, sip on my wine, and totally inhale all the great smells. This open faced sandwich looks to die for!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      You can come over and caramelize onions for me then because it definitely tests my patience. 😉 It’s worth it in the end, though!

  • Reply
    Brian @ A Thought For Food
    March 14, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I just want to say that so few folks do vegetarian sandwiches right. I’m so tired of the mozz, tomato, basil sandwich and I can never figure out why restaurants can’t get a little creative with it. THIS, however, is just divine! Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe!

    • Reply
      March 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      Oh, I completely agree. It’s always either the TBM or the portabella mushroom sandwich, right? I try to remind myself that at least they’re offering something for vegetarians and I should be thankful for that, but yes, so many veg menu options are completely uninspired.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    This looks delicious. I haven’t tried this yet, but here’s how to make caramelized onions in a crock pot:

    sounds simple enough…

    • Reply
      March 15, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks for the link! I’ve been meaning to try caramelizing onions in a slow cooker too.

  • Reply
    Virginia @thatbaldchick
    March 15, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Believe it, or not, but I just recently learned HOW to caramelize onions!

  • Reply
    Lisa @ Greek Vegetarian
    March 15, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Oh stop doing this to me! Especially when I’m about to embark on a week-long diet without carbs! (Meat-free week for my partner Tony, Carb-free week for me). Maybe I could squeeze one of these last-hoorah sandwiches in on Sunday night!

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