created at: 2014-05-15

Growing up, my family celebrated all of the major—and many of the minor—Jewish holidays. But it wasn’t until I attended college that I realized just how many holidays there are in Judaism. It seemed like there was a party on the quad or a day off every other week to observe an obscure celebration or memorial that I’d never heard of. Back then, these celebrations meant a welcome cancellation of my 9 a.m. class. But now they have more meaning.

One of these holidays, Lag Ba’Omer, is occurring this weekend. I may have first heard about it in college, but my true understanding came about four years ago, when I traveled down to Florida for a good friend’s wedding. She and her then-fiancé had specifically planned their nuptials on this day because of its significance as the 33rd day in the mourning period of the Omer. It is a day of joy and celebration where festivities are encouraged in the form of bonfires, picnics, games and, of course, weddings.

This wedding included all of those things. And to keep the celebration going, the menu included items inspired by this day. It was made up of food that could be cooked and eaten outside. There were lots of grilled dishes that you could eat with your hands. It was the best and biggest picnic I’ve ever attended.

This recipe is inspired by the general merriment of that day. If you’ve never grilled sweet potatoes, I suggest you try. The result is similar to roasting them: a caramelized exterior and velvety interior. Making them the main ingredient in an easily transportable sandwich means you’ll be well fed and energetic for all of your Lag Ba’Omer celebrations.

Grilled Sweet Potato Sandwiches

Makes 4 sandwiches

2 large sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise into ½-inch-thick planks
¼ cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon Sriracha (or any hot sauce)
1 ripe avocado
1 cucumber, sliced into ¼-inch planks
1 cup arugula
1 bunch cilantro
8 slices multigrain bread

1. Heat grill to medium-high. Oil grates. Brush both sides of sweet potato planks with vegetable oil. Season with salt and pepper. When grill is hot, place over grates and cook, covered, until cooked through, 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through. (May take less time or more depending on the thickness of your planks.)

2. Meanwhile, mix together mayonnaise, maple syrup and Sriracha. Set aside. Once sweet potatoes are cooked through, transfer to plate.

3. To assemble: Spread avocado on one slice of bread. Spread mayonnaise mixture on second slice of bread. Layer grilled sweet potato planks, cucumber slices, arugula and scant handful of cilantro leaves and top with second slice of bread.