I’ve always found vegetarian sandwiches to be a bit uninspired. It can be hard to come up with enough substance to make the sandwich satiating– a pile of vegetables just doesn’t do it for me. To be sure, the vegetarian sandwich pantheon has some pretty great occupants: a good egg and cheese; a well-seasoned roasted vegetable with goat cheese; an avocado and cilantro with lime juice and sea salt; pesto grilled cheese; hummus and cukes. But this rotation gets old after awhile, and variety is indeed the spice of life.
Of course, I’d eat peanut butter sandwiches happily until the day I die. But nowadays you can’t always pack a PB&J to bring into public spaces, particularly if you’re making a picnic for your kids that will be eaten in public shared spaces, as nut-free zones abound.
So you can imagine how revolutionary it was to discover an entirely new sandwich condiment– a nutrient-packed, vegan and densely-flavored one at that– which would serve as the basis for a whole new category of vegetarian sandwiches I could add to my repertoire. This condiment–which hails from Germany and is called simply “streichcreme” (rote Bete-meerrettich)– has been dubbed “pink stuff” by my kids.
This sandwich spread is ubiquitous in Germany, and my sister in law always brings us a jar when she visits from Hamburg, where she now lives. It’s a silky-smooth, magenta colored spread whose primary ingredients are roasted beets, sunflower seeds and horseradish. It tastes more of mild horseradish than beets or sunflower seeds, in my humble opinion, and is positively addictive. My kids like to dip mini Triscuits in it as if it’s hummus. I’ve found it most appealing as the basis for a savory breakfast sandwich, paired with cheddar cheese and a handful of peppery arugula leaves (pictured above). I've turned many of my patients on to this breakfast sandwich, and they're as obsessed as I am.
Since German ingredient labels list ingredients by percentage, I decided to try to reverse-engineer this product. After a few attempts, I came up with this recipe as the closest approximation to the real deal. My homemade version is more rose colored than magenta, owing to the fact that I don’t have the benefit of “roasted beet concentrate” in my pantry, but the flavor is similar enough. Of course, if you happen to know someone traveling over there for any reason, ask them to pick up a jar for you as a souvenir so you can compare this homemade version to the original.
Pink Stuff (Roasted Beet & Horseradish Spread)
Yield: ~1/2 pint plastic deli container’s worth
- 3 small roasted beets, about 5-5.5 ounces (I lazily used pre-cooked ones from Love Beets; homemade roasted beets would probably have an even better flavor)
- 3/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds, unsalted
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- 1 TBSP + 1 tsp Gold’s prepared horseradish (sold in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, near the cream cheeses, butter and eggs)
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until well blended and very creamy textured. You may need to stop a few times to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are well combined.
- Store in refrigerator.
To make Pink Stuff Sandwiches:
- Spread pink stuff on both sides of your favorite toasted bread, regular or gluten free
- Top each side with 1/2-1 slice of orange-colored cheddar cheese (for visual effect)
- Top one side with a handful of washed baby arugula leaves
- Cover sandwich and serve.