Lucky for us that John Montagu, better known as the Earl of Sandwich, didn’t want to take time away from the gaming tables, so he slapped some meat between two slices of bread and ate as he played. He no doubt was not the first to pile meat on bread. The Arabs have been filling the pockets of their pita bread with various meats for centuries. And for over 2,000 years the Jews have eaten chopped herbs, nuts and apples between two slices of matzo. Even so, the Earl of Sandwich takes credit for starting what has become a thriving culinary institution.
And sometimes at the end of a long day of traveling, when the summer evening hasn’t cooled off and one simply doesn’t feel like cooking, a hefty sandwich can be most satisfying. Sandwiches have become synonymous with quick and convenient meals.
Bread is of prime importance when it comes to making a sandwich. It is one of the basic building blocks, and comes in a wide variety of flavors and textures that should be chosen to complement the filling.
The fillings form the body of any sandwich, and they should be layered as close to the edges as possible without making a drippy mess. Creative tinkering is important here, and all kinds of combinations will work. To make a melted cheese more memorable, add some prosciuttini and roasted red peppers. Or add cucumber, onion and pepper, which will provide crunch, fiber and flavor for very few calories.
Here are some salad sandwiches that have refreshing seasonal ingredients and sophisticated flavors and are easy to prepare. They are perfect for a hot summer evening when one finally pulls into a campsite.
SHRIMP, CORN AND RED PEPPER SALAD SANDWICHES
1/2 cup of corn kernels
1 1/2 cups of cooked peeled tiny shrimp
1 cup of diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons of finely chopped scallions
4 teaspoons of fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon of grated lime peel
1/2 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
6 Kaiser rolls, cut in half
Place ingredients into a bowl and mix to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pull some bread out of each roll half, hollowing out slightly. Divide salad among rolls. Serves six.
LEMON-TARRAGON CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES
2 cups of cooked chicken, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup of chopped celery
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup of finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of grated lemon peel
12 slices of rye bread
2 cups of thinly sliced romaine lettuce
Place first seven ingredients into a bowl and mix to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange bread slices on work surface; spread with chicken salad mixture. Top with lettuce and second bread slice. Cut in half. Serves six.
ANTIPASTO SALAD SANDWICHES
1/2 pound of sliced Italian salami, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
3/4 cup of finely chopped celery
1/4 cup of finely chopped pitted Kalamata olives or other black olives
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/3 cup of chopped roasted red peppers from jar
An 18-inch-long French-bread baguette
2 cups of thinly sliced radicchio
Place first six ingredients into a bowl and mix to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut bread crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Cut each piece horizontally in half. Scoop out some soft center from each bread piece, leaving a half-inch-thick shell. Spread mixture in hollow of each bread piece. Top with radicchio; press bread tops over. Serves four.
GRILLED ROASTED PEPPER, HAM AND CHEESE SANDWICH
4 slices of whole-grain bread
4 teaspoons of softened butter
4 thin slices of ham
1 roasted red pepper from a jar, patted dry and thinly sliced
3 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
Spread butter on bread. Divide ham, peppers and cheese between 2 slices of bread. Place sandwiches, buttered sides down, in skillet; cook 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Serves two.
FRIED EGG, BACON AND ARUGULA SANDWICHES
For each serving, toast one split ciabatta roll. Stir together 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese and 1/2 tablespoon of softened butter; spread on both sides of roll. Top with 1/4 cup of arugula, a slice of cooked and crumbled bacon, a fried egg, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Close sandwich and eat immediately.
FRENCH DIP SANDWICH
Combine a can of beef consommé, dash of Worcestershire sauce, a clove of garlic, minced, and a teaspoon of prepared horseradish in skillet and simmer about 5 minutes. Heat 18 thin slices of roast beef in consommé. Take 8 French rolls and split in half. Dip cut sides in consommé; place roast beef between halves and serve at once. Serves eight.
After years of being relegated to the lunch box and the deli, the sandwich is finally getting its due. Chefs and cooks are layering and stacking a variety of meats, cheeses, veggies and more on artisanal breads—the possibilities are endless and hard to resist.
After a long tiring day of driving, a full-flavored handheld meal will for sure hit the spot. The sandwich is practically an American institution. It is casual, convenient and incredibly adaptable to most every occasion.
HINT OF THE MONTH: To bring a fresher taste to a sandwich, use alfalfa sprouts or spinach leaves instead of the usual lettuce. n
Marian Platt is a food writer who lives in Sequim, Washington.