Today, the greatest thing since sliced bread is a sublime sandwich minus the bread, especially for healthful and fun school-lunch options. While some kids have Celiac disease (where the small intestine is under attack from eating gluten, the "glue-like" protein found in certain grains and their hybrids including wheat, rye and barley), many more are gluten-sensitive and have difficulty digesting wheat products with side effects like fatigue and bloating.
Although there are now a wide variety of gluten-free bread choices, the uber-fussy young palate resists these foreign breads made from ancient grains and other odd amalgams like brown rice, tapioca (cassava) flour, potato starch, flaxseed meal, quinoa, amaranth, and millet.
Long before John Montagu, the "Earl of Sandwich," was credited with inventing the iconic sandwich when so engrossed in a poker game, he sent a servant to bring him an easy dinner in the form of roast beef stuffed between two slices of bread that would also keep the cards clean, Hillel the Elder, a Jerusalem rabbi concocted a bitter herb sandwich with unleavened bread to symbolize the bitterness of slavery in the fleshpots of ancient Egypt. This sandwich concept creating a portable, clean and easy to eat multi-layered mash-up of breads, meats, fish, fowls, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, spreads and condiments that pleases sweet, savory and salty taste buds has survived the test of time.
But instead of using bread fill the lunch boxes with these interesting sandwich combos:
• Go ape over banana slices with chocolate hazelnut spread or sunflower butter.
• As cool as a cucumber hollowed out and stuffed with tuna, salmon, or chicken salad or hummus.
• Let's talk turkey with sliced breast meat and spicy mustard sandwiched between two thick slices of Swiss, cheddar, pepper jack or other favorite cheese. For the lactose intolerant goat cheeses are highly digestible, or non-dairy "cheese" options made from nuts.
• Veg-out with grilled or raw vegetables subbing in for bread, such as Portobello mushrooms, eggplant or peppers, whether sweet red, green, yellow or orange, sliced lengthwise, filled with turkey, chicken, or grass-fed organic beef meatballs or patties, a pesto paste, or mashed navy or cannellini beans.
• Say cheese with an heirloom tomato sandwich filled with a fresh round of mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, and Italian salami for a crustless pizza.
• Turn over a new leaf with lettuce cups, including Butter, Romaine or Iceberg stuffed with a bean medley, or egg or shrimp salad and a side of vinaigrette or ranch dressing.
• Be creative with large sheets of nori or edible seaweed, making hand-held cones filled with crab salad or smoked salmon with cucumber sticks and chunks of avocado.
• Rice cakes that are either sweet, savory, or neutral-flavored are thick, crispy, crunchy rounds that hold up well to nut butters and preserves, cream cheeses, and other thick spreads.
— Of course, be a nutty professor with an apple a day. Stuff two thick slices of a crunchy, juicy Granny Smith, Gala or Fuji with a wholesome nut butter like almond, walnut, or cashew, dotted with raisins or dried cranberries. This one gets an "A+" in my cookbook.
Recipe: Apple and Walnut Butter 'Sandwich'
• Ingredients: 4 firm, crisp apples (your choice), cored, sliced crosswise at the thickest part of the fruit; 1/2 cup walnut butter (recipe below); 1/2 cup raisins, currants or cranberries (your choice).
• Walnut Butter: 2 cups of raw, organic walnuts; 2 teaspoons of nut oil (walnut, almond) or avocado or coconut oil; 1 tablespoon of creamy, raw honey; pink salt to taste; few drops of vanilla extract (optional)
• Method: Add ingredients to blender or food processor and blend to desired consistency. Spread liberally on face-side up of bottom apple slice, and sprinkle with dried fruit. Place another apple slice on top and wrap well, or store in an airtight container.
• Cook's Tip: To prevent apple from browning, squirt fresh lemon juice on top layer. Chill remaining walnut butter in a mason jar until ready to enjoy again. Serves 2.
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org