Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sensational Sandwiches

(my monthly column for HEARTLAND WOMEN)
September 2007

The ubiquitous sandwich is one of nature’s and lunchtime’s truly perfect foods, incorporating all food groups into a hand-y meal. Salads and pizza are the other perfect foods, in my humble opinion, but that’s a story for another day.

Every year about this time, just as schools across the country are cranking up, home kitchens begin cranking out lunch bags. We vow to send them out with a healthy, home-packed, affordable lunch. We, too, long for tasty, inspired creations to brighten our own midday break. But, despite our best intentions, and before the leaves even begin to change colors, we hae usually fallen back into the same old unimaginative PB&J, carrot sticks, and apple habit. Not that it is a bad lunch. It just lacks imagination and appeal for anyone over the age of ten.

If you truly love sandwiches, as I do, then there is no reason to suffer one more boring sack lunch. I have found some delicious sandwich ideas, most of which make use of the late summer stragglers in your garden or the farmer’s market. There are not a lot of sandwich cookbooks or sandwich recipes out there, but that should not stop us. To experience your full potential as a sandwich “artiste” you might seek inspiration from sandwich shop menus, glossy food magazines, or just open the fridge and forage for last night’s leftovers. The sandwich may be born of necessity, but a true sandwich masterpiece is the perfect blend of form, function, and personal taste, along a dash of panache.

Several of my favorite sandwiches feature canned tuna – but not just the usual old tuna with mayo, and not just any tuna. I have fallen in love with Italian canned tuna packed in olive oil. The first few times I bought it, I was enticed by articles extolling the uncommonly good taste of imported canned Italian tuna. Sure enough, I found it superior to our own dry, tasteless domestic brands, but at three or four times the price, it was not destined for daily consumption at my house. However, a much more affordable alternative is now available in our local groceries. The brand, Genova Tonno, is solid light tuna in olive oil, and about $2 per 6-oz. can. This is not at all like the old-fashioned mystery-oil-packed tuna you eschewed in favor of flavorless water-packed so many years ago. If you are a tuna lover, or would like to be, give this Italian-style olive oil version a try and taste the difference for yourself.

Another of my favorite sandwich ingredients is sprouts. I absolutely adore the crunchy texture sprouts add to sandwiches. Recently I came across a big bag of alfalfa seeds – at a Wild Oats store in Indianapolis, I think – and brought some home. Tucked away in a cabinet, I located the set of graduated size, screened jar lids I use to grow my own sprouts. I was forced to beg a wide-mouth jar from my friend, Phyllis, -- not much canning and preserving going on around my house lately – and I grew my first batch of sprouts last week. They were even better than I remembered and much fresher and crunchier than store-bought! What a treat!

The sandwich recipes and ideas I have here feature tuna and eggs – both are lunchtime classics after all – and some other fresh ideas. If you prefer a salad for lunch, just omit the bread and toss these ingredients with the lettuce of your choice, for a lighter version. And, of course, the reverse is true too! Salads are not just about lettuce and a big bowl anymore. If you make a great salad, but still long for a satisfying sandwich now and then, just stuff your salad between two pieces of whole grain bread and enjoy!

(adapted from s’kat and the food blog)
2 cans tuna, packed in olive oil
1/4 c. red onion, minced
8 kalamata olives, chopped
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. capers, drained and rinsed
1 hot red cherry pepper, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 marinated red pepper strip, minced
1/4 c. minced fresh parsley and basil combined
juice of one lemon

Drain one can of tuna. Combine the drained tuna, the tuna with oil from the second can, and the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours, or overnight, if you can wait that long. Serve as is, or on your choice of bread for a sandwich.

(adapted from s’kat and the food, Lynne Rosetto Kasper's weekly food email The Splendid Table, and from Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals by Sara Moulton)
4 oz. good-quality feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves, or 1/2 tsp. dried
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 oz. fresh, rinsed baby spinach
4 medium plum tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced
1 1/2 c. English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, rinsed, dried and minced
1/3 c. pitted, brine-cured olives such as Kalamata
6 pepperoncini, chopped
4 pita rounds, cut in half

Combine feta, oil, water, the mayonnaise, lemon juice and oregano in blender or food processor, blending until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss with feta dressing. Divide salad mixture among the 8 pita halves and serve. Notes: Add canned tuna or smoked salmon, along with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Or try with cold, sliced leftover lamb and some chopped garlic, if you like.

1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
1 tbsp. grated, fresh Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1 sm. red onion, sliced very thinly
1 – 2 tsp. capers, drained and rinsed
1 can tuna, drained
1 tomato, sliced 1/4-in. thick
Kalamata olives, sliced
leafy greens
day old crusty bread

Combine red wine vinegar, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and black pepper, adjusting to taste as necessary. Place sliced red onion into same container, and let sit while preparing the remaining ingredients. Slice bread in half, and hollow out a portion of the interior. Beginning with bottom piece of bread, layer with vinaigrette-drenched onions. Follow with capers, tuna, tomatoes, olives and leafy greens. If desired, add one more layer of onions, finish with top slice of bread, and press down firmly to make sandwich.

2 romaine lettuce leaves
2 tomato slices
2 slices crisp bacon
2 oz. sliced turkey
1 sliced hard-boiled egg
3 slices avocado
1 tbsp. chopped black olives
1 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 tbsp. creamy blue cheese dressing or
olive oil vinaigrette
1 crusty French roll

Slice roll and remove some of bread inside. Layer sandwich ingredients into bread and sprinkle with dressing. Press roll together firmly.

1 French baguette
1 tbsp. good extra virgin olive oil
1 oz. brie cheese
2 fresh tomato slices
spring lettuce mix
fresh basil leaves
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Slice the bread into a sandwich length and then in half horizontally. Splash some olive oil on the inside of the bread. Layer the bread with the brie cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and basil leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste.

1 crusty French roll or baguette
1 oz. sliced havarti cheese
mix of fresh lettuces
6 cucumber slices
1 big slice fresh garden tomato
3 fresh red pepper strips
3 avocado slices
alfalfa sprouts
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Slice the bread, layer the cheese and vegetables, finish with olive oil, salt and pepper.

1 croissant
2 tbsp. cream cheese
1 tbsp. pesto
leftover grilled salmon or
sliced smoked salmon
6 cucumber slices
3 avocado slices (sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning)

Slice the croissant in half. Mix the cream cheese and pesto and spread on both sides of the croissant. Layer the salmon over the croissant and top with cucumber and avocado slices.

2 slices bacon
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 tbsp. chopped celery
1 tbsp. chopped green olives
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 lettuce leaves
2 slices whole grain bread

Fry or microwave bacon until crisp; drain on paper towel. In a small bowl, combine eggs, celery and green olives. Stir in mayonnaise and mustard until well blended. Spread more mayonnaise on both slices of bread; top one slice with lettuce leaves and egg salad mixture. Cut bacon slices in half and lay on top of egg salad. Top with second piece of bread.

2 8-oz. pkgs. cream cheese
1/2 c. grated carrots
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. chopped Granny Smith apple
1/2 c. chopped dates
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

Soften cream cheese and stir in remaining ingredients. Spread on whole grain whole wheat bread and add your choice of other toppings – lettuce, sprouts, mayo, etc.

4 large eggs
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. regular yellow mustard
2 tbsp. snipped chives
dash of Worcestershire sauce
dash of hot sauce
1/4 c. diced celery
salt and freshly ground pepper

Place eggs in a medium saucepan filled with cold water and bring to a rapid boil; cover, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and fill the pan with cold water. Peel the eggs and coarsely chop them. In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, paprika, dry mustard, chives, Worcestershire and hot sauce. Add the chopped eggs and celery and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the egg salad before serving on whole wheat bread with lettuce and mayonnaise or mustard.

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