When Craig and I were in Costa Rica we took a day to quad across to peninsula and explore. After bumping along kilometers of rolling, bumpy rainforest roads and walking out across the tide flats to a small island on a cemetery we stopped for lunch at a rather unassuming looking bakery. I ordered one of the few vegetarian options—a veggie pita. The English translation of the description was a bit lackluster (basically a long list of veg plus a pita) and my hopes weren’t that high, but then it arrived. And… oh my.

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This pita was a thing of beauty. More a grilled panini than pita, really, as the pita side seams had long since given up trying to contain the filling. The filling was amazing. A medley of beautifully seasoned fresh veg, liberally laced with perfectly ripe avocado, warmed through from a nice, pressed grilling. I devoured the entire thing, enraptured by its deliciousness. It was utterly divine, and I knew I had to recreate it when I got home.

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And so one day after my near-to-work veg stop re-opened for the season, I swung by on my bike for a backpack load of veg. I chose local as best I could to try and do justice to the wonder of fresh Costa Rica produce. Once I got home, the chopping began, and I got the sandwich grill heating up.

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Once all the veg were respectively chopped, diced, sliced, and shredded, I seasoned the lot with some good olive oil, a shake of dried oregano, some sea salt, and hot smoked paprika. That big bowl of goodness was enough to make several amazing sandwiches.

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So, for dinner that day, I moved a few handfuls of the mix to another bowl and stirred in half a diced avocado (since avocado doesn’t age all that well in a big bowl in the fridge) and some torn up just-picked Alberta spinach. That, plus a thick layer of hummus, was stuffed between two slices of my favourite homemade bread, and grilled until golden. And it was divine. Dive in, you’ll be glad you did.

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Veggie Overload Panini

1 bell pepper, finely chopped
2 baby cucumbers or half a regular cucumber, finely diced
1 tomato, finely diced
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

2 tbsp olive oil
Pinch dried oregano
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 cup or so fresh spinach, rinsed and torn
Half an avocado, diced

Hummus and/or chevre

Bread or pita, for sandwiching it up

Toss the bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, shallot, garlic, cabbage, carrots, and artichokes in a large bowl and season to taste with olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. You can store this part in a sealed container in the fridge for four or five days to enjoy as needed.

When you’re ready to have a sandwich, heat up your sandwich press or a cast iron skillet. Scoop out a generous half cup or so of the basic salad mix, and stir in the diced avocado and spinach.

Spread the bread with some hummus and/or chevre, and fill it with your tasty filling. Grill until golden, ~5–7 minutes. Devour!

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