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Simple or froufrou, sandwiches satisfy

Suddenly, sandwiches are big. • Big, meaty sandwiches are the cover boys of April magazines (Saveur, Food Network), and the meal between bread is the star of two new books. The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches catalogs our most beloved sandwiches, and The Big New York Sandwich Book is filled with recipes from the big city's biggest chefs. Think prosciutto, grilled fennel and pear with Gorgonzola aioli. • If magazines and books are not enough to vault our favorite breakfast-lunch-and-dinner food to new heights, keep in mind that April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Time to get your molten goo on. (Mark your calendars: National Sandwich Month is August, and National Sandwich Day is Nov. 3.)

And one place not known for sandwiches is learning more about where its bread could be buttered: Last week, Dunkin' Donuts began testing a chicken salad sandwich in the Northeast. Can it be long before they figure out a way to inject turkey and Swiss into a jelly doughnut? The Dunkin' D Monte Cristo?

The appeal of sandwiches is nothing new to Americans, who nosh about 45 billion of them annually. In tough economic times, they can be inexpensive to engineer, and when times are flush, or we just want to splurge, there are fancy cheeses, fresh herbs and lunch meats that cost as much per pound as filet mignon, maybe more.

We tote sandwiches to the office, pack them in school lunches, eat them on road trips and as midnight snacks. Messy ones are devoured over the sink, juice from the tomato dripping down our arms. Tidy numbers are served crustless with hot tea. Sandwiches have the power to kindle memories of home, but they are never quite right unless we eat them at the source. (In Florida, we always blame the bread.) The Philly cheesesteak is a good example of that, as are the Hot Brown from Kentucky and the muffuletta of New Orleans. And which could claim itself the state sandwich of Florida? The Cuban or the grouper?

Numbers are difficult to come by, but the lion's share of those billions of sandwiches have to be PB&Js, all variations of turkey and homemade tuna salad. We have strict notions about what makes them good, from the type of bread to the brand of mayo. We all have our favorites.

Take the peanut butter sandwich, a lunch box staple. There's chunky and creamy peanut butter to pick between, along with natural or freshly made, and, of course, the bread presents more choices. Jelly offers many alternatives (grape, strawberry, peach, raspberry, etc.), but then there are other amiable partners. Me? Creamy peanut butter, raspberry jam and a layer of salty Ruffles potato chips, all on pillowy white bread and smashed just a bit. Elvis? Peanut butter and bananas grilled on white, the bread buttered. Who's to argue with the King?

But the variations on peanut butter sandwiches don't stop there. Pair the creamy spread with marshmallow creme, crispy bacon or apple slices. Drizzle with chocolate for dessert-ish panini. If only Elvis had lived long enough to eat a Bananas Foster PB Sandwich, in which the bananas are sauteed in butter with sugar and cinnamon before being slapped on the sticky spread.

Salute to the sandwich

In The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches (Quirk, 2011), author Susan Russo catalogs 100 classic sandwiches, from the British Chip Butty (french fries on white with mayo) to the frosted '50s Sandwich Party Loaf, an invention that looks more dessert than entree. Russo's book is a fun romp through the food that fuels us.

"Not only do we love to eat sandwiches, but we also love to make them, talk about them and gaze upon them," Russo writes. The San Diego food blogger (foodblogga.com) celebrates sandwiches from around the country and provides recipes for all of them. The most basic creations get their due, too, including grilled cheese and fried bologna.

While Encyclopedia of Sandwiches covers the basics, the April issue of Saveur covers the world in its "Sandwich Issue." (If you're flipping through at the checkout, go to Page 63 to see the $50 triple-decker.) Sure, we love sandwiches in America, but protein (or veggies) between starch is a global cuisine.

Vietnam has the banh mi (a hoagielike sandwich with pork, crunchy vegetables and a salty-sweet vinaigrette) and India its potato-fritter vada pav, served from carts as street food. There's Lebanese manoushe (herbed vegetable on flatbread) and the Venezuelan specialty, patacon maracucho (avocado and chicken served between discs of fried plantain).

It's nice to taste outside your comfort zone a bit, but the familiar is often the more likely choice when it comes to homemade sandwiches.

I almost always choose hot or salad sandwiches (anything parmigian-ed; grilled cheddar cheese dunked in ketchup; tuna salad with black olives; egg salad with just mayo, salt and pepper) over cold meat sandwiches. By conservative estimate, I've made at least 4,500 sandwiches for my teenage son in his lifetime. I am embarrassed to say how many have been turkey or peanut butter, though the tuna melt is coming on strong. A homemade breakfast sandwich — egg, cheese, bacon — on a French hamburger bun is also a repeat request.

My new favorite is the Fried Green Tomato BLT. Russo's recipe is simple, and when you can find green tomatoes, give it a try. I guess I am setting down some Southern roots, because a little bowl of creamy grits sure goes nice with the cornmeal crunch of the tangy tomatoes. And bacon never hurts anything it's paired with.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>EASY

Fried Green Tomato BLT

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced

1 egg

2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk or buttermilk

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large green tomato, sliced in 1/2-inch-thick rounds

1/2 cup canola oil

4 slices white or wheat berry bread, toasted

4 lettuce leaves

6 bacon slices, cooked

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise and basil; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk egg and milk; set aside. Place flour in a shallow bowl; in a separate shallow bowl combine cornmeal, salt and pepper. One at a time, dredge tomato slices in flour, coating both sides, then dip in milk-egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl. Coat evenly with cornmeal.

In a small pan, fry tomatoes on both sides in canola oil until golden brown. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Spread basil mayonnaise on two bread slices. Place lettuce on top of mayo and cover each with a tomato slice. Add cooked bacon to both sandwiches and close. Cut sandwiches in half on the diagonal.

Makes 2.



Source: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo (Quirk, 2011)

>>EASY

Chicken Salad With Cranberries and Pecans

About 4 cups diced cooked chicken or 1 rotisserie chicken dark and white meat, shredded

1 cup finely diced celery

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 Vidalia onion, finely diced (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup relish

1 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground

black pepper

1 cup pecan pieces, optional

Combine chicken, celery, cranberries and onion, then mix in relish and mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in pecan pieces if using.

Makes enough for 4 sandwiches.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches by Susan Russo (Quirk, 2011)

>>EASY

Elena Ruz (Cuban Turkey Tea Sandwich)

1 Cuban roll or brioche bun

1 tablespoon cream cheese, softened

3 ounces sliced turkey breast

2 tablespoons strawberry jam

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Split roll and spread cream cheese and turkey on bottom half. Spread jam on top half of roll and close sandwich. Heat butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat; grill sandwich, weighing down with a cast-iron skillet and turning once, until golden brown and heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Cut in half, and serve hot.

Makes 1.

Source: Saveur magazine, April 2011

>>MODERATE

Prosciutto, Grilled Fennel and Pear Sandwich

Gorgonzola aioli:

2 garlic cloves

1 large egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Gorgonzola

Salt and pepper

For sandwich:

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Extra-virgin olive oil

8 slices country bread, focaccia, challah or brioche

About 6 cups arugula

12 thin slices prosciutto

2 Bosc pears, thinly sliced

To make aioli, place the garlic in a food processor or blender and pulse a few times. Add the egg yolk and the mustard. Turn the processor or blender to high, and add the oil slowly until emulsified. Add the lemon juice and Gorgonzola. Taste and season sparingly. Add a few drops of water until creamy. Set aside. (If you don't want to use raw egg yolk, which is not recommended by food safety officials, substitute 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise.)

To prepare the sandwich, season the fennel with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil. Grill or saute fennel until charred and softened. Drizzle one side of each bread slice with olive oil, and grill until toasted. Lay down 4 slices of bread, toasted side up. Line each slice with the arugula, prosciutto, fennel and pear. Spread the remaining four slices with the aioli. Top the sandwiches and serve.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Source: The Big New York Sandwich Book by Sara Reistad-Long and Jean Tang (Running Press, 2011)

>>MODERATE

Herbed Goat Cheese and

Roasted-Vegetable Sandwiches

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2 medium zucchini, each cut lengthwise into 4 slices

1 large red bell pepper, quartered

1 large eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided use

3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, divided use (see note)

3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided use (see note)

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2/3 cup soft fresh goat cheese, room temperature (about 5 ounces) or same amount softened cream cheese

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

8 slices whole-grain bread or whole-grain rolls

2 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray. Arrange zucchini, bell pepper and eggplant on prepared baking sheets. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Turn vegetables over. Roast until tender and brown in spots, about 10 minutes longer for zucchini and 25 minutes longer for bell pepper and eggplant.

Whisk 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme, vinegar and remaining tablespoon oil in large bowl to blend. Add roasted vegetables and toss to coat.

Mix goat cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Place all bread slices on work surface. Spread each with cheese mixture. Top 4 bread slices with roasted vegetables, then spinach leaves. Cover with remaining bread slices, cheese side down. Cut each sandwich in half.

Note: Substitute 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for 3 teaspoons fresh, using half for the vegetables and the other half for the cheese mixture. Let cheese mixture sit for at least 30 minutes so that dried herbs reconstitute.

Makes 4 sandwiches.



Source: Bon Appetit, 2002

Simple or froufrou, sandwiches satisfy 04/12/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:35pm]

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