A sandwich of asparagus and mushrooms could be kind of dull — or, as Between the Bread demonstrates, it could be a triumphant lesson in culinary restraint.

Ann Arbor's famed Zingerman's Deli is known for its corned beef sandwiches, but it's also not shy when it comes to packing on farmers market fresh veggies.

This recipe, dubbed Rodger's Big Picnic, comes from my trusty Roadfood Sandwiches cookbook, which describes this sandwich as Zingerman's ode to Michigan produce and particularly asparagus.

Putting this recipe together, I worried it would be too dull. The mushrooms are just broiled, not marinated, and the sandwich is adorned with nothing but sharp cheddar and Dijon mustard.

But with perfectly cooked, totally fresh produce, two ingredients are all you need. The sandwich was unexpectedly graceful, simple yet full-bodied, and hard to put down.

For the recipe, keep reading.

Rodger's Big Picnic, from Zingerman's Deli via Roadfood Sandwiches

For the bread, I used a parbaked ciabatta loaf from Trader Joe's, which I highly recommend. Fresh like homemade, except it requires no effort.

4 ounces asparagus (4-5 medium spears)
Olive oil
Sea salt
2 ounces (1 large) portobello mushroom
2 slices country bread
2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard, plus more to taste
2 thick slices Grafton cheddar cheese (sharp or mild, to taste)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer in a baking pan and toss it lightly with a little olive oil and sea salt. Roast, turning it occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the asparagus is light golden and tender in the middle. Set it aside and keep it warm.
  3. Preheat a grill or the broiler. Lightly brush the top and bottom of the mushroom with olive oil. Grill or broil for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
  4. Spread each slice of bread to the edge with a little over 1 tablespoon of the mustard. Top 1 slice with the roasted asparagus, grilled mushroom, and cheddar. Close the sandwiches and lightly brush the outside of the bread with olive oil.
  5. Place the sandwich in a hot skillet and grill each side for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown — just long enough to grill the bread without melting the cheese. Cut in half diagonally and serve.

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