September 16, 2008

Sandwiches (and Tempeh!) : Week One

Sandwiches. They’re pretty easy to make, right? You just slap a couple pieces of bread together with some filling inside, like PB and J or maybe good-old ham and cheese. Serve it with pickles and potato chips and you’re good to go.

Yeah. That’s what I thought, too. The first substantial chapter in my cookbook is Sandwiches, after you get past the sauces and appetizers. First I decided to skip to near the end of the chapter and only make the ones she calls Supper Sandwiches. The other ones? Meh. I’d make them for lunch sometime.

J disagreed. He thought I should go ahead and make all the sandwiches. I remembered something I had read in the opening section of the book, Becoming a Cook:

“Learn to make a few things well. Learning too many dishes at once makes cooking trying. It’s better to build your cooking vocabulary dish by dish … So decide what you like to eat, then practice cooking that type of dish until you feel confident. Once you understand the basics, you’ll be able to cook creatively and easily.”

Hmmmm. Maybe I could become a sandwich artist, just like those people at Subway. Except with better-quality ingredients, and no little plastic gloves. Anyway, I decided to give it a try.

Let me tell you, sandwiches are not as easy as they look. At all. I am starting to learn that there is an art to making a really good sandwich. According to Deborah Madison, that art involves four things: bread, a filling, flavouring and a garnish. It makes sense, but I had never stopped to think about it in that way.

So we have just started week two of sandwiches. There are many more weeks to come. It’s a long chapter. I invite you, dear readers, to join me on this long, and hopefully tasty, journey of sandwiches.

Week one certainly started off tasty. Here are the sandwiches we ate last week (well, actually a week and a half. I lied in the title of this post to make it sound good).

Braised Spinach with Tomatoes and Sauteed Onions on Country Bread

Bruschetta with Swiss Chard

Avocado and Cheese with Sprouts

Avocado Club Sandwich with Tempeh Strips

Cucumber Sandwiches with Spicy Greens

Tomato Sandwich with Olive Paste, Mozzarella, and Arugula

Grilled Fontina with Sage Leaves

The sandwiches were all very good. My favourite was probably the avocado club. J liked the cucumber one the best.

I made side dishes to go with all the sandwiches too, since just eating a sandwich feels too much like lunch. I picked the sides once we got back from the market with a bunch of veggies.

Here are a few of the sandwich “recipes”, and one side.

Braised Spinach with Tomatoes and Sauteed Onions on Foccacia or Country Bread

Olive Oil as needed

2 garlic cloves, one sliced, one halved

1 bunch Spinach, stems removed

Salt and freshly milled pepper

Red pepper flakes

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 big squares foccacia, about 6 by 6 inches, or 4 large slices sourdough bread

2 small tomatoes, sliced

6 ½ inch rounds goat cheese

Balsamic or red wine vinegar

Heat one tablespoon oil with the sliced garlic in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to colour, then add the spinach and sprinkle with salt and several pinches red pepper flakes. Raise the heat and sauté until wilted and tender, after a few minutes. Remove to a colander to drain.

Discard any juices left in the pan, add 2 teaspoons oil and the onion, and sauté over high heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Toast or broil the focaccia, then rub with the halved garlic clove.

Pile the spinach on the bottom halves of the foccacia, then top with the onion, tomato, and cheese. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with pepper. Broil until the cheese begins to colour in spots, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with vinegar, add the tops, and press down to secure them.

Avocado Club Sandwich with Tempeh Strips

Baconlike tempeh strips, homemade or store-bought, provide some of the texture and smoke that bacon does. (See below for recipe.) Slice the bread thinly, or the finished sandwich might be too thick. Toast the bread and spread each slice with mayonnaise. Cover one slice with a crisp lettuce leaf, three slices avocado, and the tempeh and season with salt and pepper. Add the second piece of toast, mayonnaise side up, and cover with three slices Swiss cheese, sliced tomato, and another layer of lettuce. Set the third piece of toast, mayonnaise side down, over the lettuce and press down gently. To be ultra-traditional, trim the crusts (I didn’t), then cut the sandwiches diagonally to make 4 triangles and secure each with a skirted toothpick (also didn’t, but only because I forgot). Serve with pickled vegetables or a mound of finely shredded cabbage tossed with salt and lime juice on the side.

Tempeh Strips in a Smoky Molasses Marinade

1 8 or 10-ounce package tempeh

2 garlic cloves, put through a press or minced

A few onion slices

2 bay leaves

1/4 thin soy sauce or 2 tablespoons thin soy and mushroom soy (I just used regular soy sauce - not sure what thin soy sauce is)

4 thin slices ginger

1 clove

1/4 teaspoon pureed chipotle chile or a few drops liquid smoke (I didn't have either so I added red pepper flakes)

2 tablespoons molasses

1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Optional additions: chipotle chile, red pepper flakes, thyme sprigs, rosemary, dried mushrooms, and so forth

Slice the tempeh crosswise into thin strips. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small skillet, bring them to a boil, and add the tempeh. Simmer slowly, covered, for 15 minutes, remove the lid, and continue cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed. At this point the tempeh will begin to fry in the oil (I didn't really see this happening - but it still tasted great!). Cook until it's glazed and brown, about 5 minutes.

Cucumber Sandwiches with Spicy Greens

An interesting twist on the traditional tea sandwiches. Spread white or whole-wheat bread with mayonnaise and top with thinly sliced cucumber and sprigs of arugula, nasturtium leaves, or garden cress. Season with salt and white pepper (I used black), then top with a second piece of bread. If spicy greens aren’t available, mix the mayonnaise with horseradish.

Roasted Carrots with Garlic and Thyme

Since the garlic is roasted with the skins on, this is the perfect time to use all those tiny cloves that are too fiddly to peel. Leftovers are good with a squeeze of lemon.

I used a pound of carrots and half a pound of potatoes in this recipe. It came out gorgeous, both vegetables were soft without being mushy. There seems to be a lot of oil, though. You could probably get away with a tablespoon and a half.

1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly milled pepper

10 or so tiny garlic cloves

Several thyme sprigs

Chopped thyme or parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the carrots with the oil, then season with salt and pepper. Put them in a roomy baking dish with the garlic and thyme sprigs. Add two tablespoons water, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until tender, 25 to 45 minutes. Check at least twice while they’re cooking to make sure there’s a little moisture in the pan – and give the pan a shake while you’re at it. Toward the end, remove the foil and continue roasting until the liquid is reduced and the carrots are browned. Serve garnished with chopped thyme.

1 comment:

Anne said...

OH. MY. GOD. I can't read the whole thing in one sitting... it's too filling, and overwhelmingly delicious! Ha ha, maybe an unexpected side effect of this blog will be to inspire your mom to get interested in cooking again!!! I miss you Is...
xoxo, Mom