Now that school’s out (pheeew) and camp and picnics are in, I’m going to take a continuing summer education course on Sandwiches 101.
Remember growing up when the sandwich was primarily of North American origin?
Pedestrian grilled cheese (Wonder Bread with Kraft singles), turkey club, Philly cheese steak, egg salad, bologna and peanut butter and jelly (a national staple before the days of allergy alerts) were the standards.
The simple sandwich has spread its wings and become designer trendy as well as ethnically diverse - French filled baguettes, Greek gyros, Middle Eastern pitas, British tea sandwiches, Italian panini crafted with state-of-the-art presses, Mexican quesadillas and burrito-inspired wraps. Even sub sandwiches are rabbinically blessed, now kosher and living in Los Angeles.
Throughout history, folks discovered that the most efficient and convenient meal was a favorite food stuffed between two pieces of bread. The sandwich has Biblical roots, the first one concocted by the Jewish sage Hillel the Elder who piled slices of Paschal lamb and bitter herbs between two pieces of unleavened bread or matzo during Passover. In the Middle Ages, food was placed on coarse bread instead of plates to sop up the runny juices. This leftover soggy “trencher” slab was then tossed to the dogs or beggars. These trenchers were the precursors of modern-day open-faced sandwiches.
The term “sandwich” is named after John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, an 18th century British aristocrat who supposedly popularized the style of eating strips of cold meat between two slices of bread to sustain himself during his cribbage marathons and to also keep his hands and cards clean.
In this country, we consume more than 300 million sandwiches a day – ham the most popular, B.L.T. the runner-up. We now have a National Sandwich Week, breakfast sandwiches, soup and sandwich combos and salad-and-sandwich duets displayed on sandwich boards in sandwich shops or sandwich stands, sometimes served in sandwich bags.
If I was a sandwich woman, these are the choices I’d offer on my board:
- “The Paris Hilton” - Open-faced, chicken breast tenders, hold the dressing
- “The Hillary Clinton” - Cold shoulder of lamb on rye
- “The John McCain” - Aged cheddar and ham on a crusty old roll with a sour dill on the side
- “The Angelina Jolie” - Long, thin baguette stuffed with olives, the pits remaining
- “The George Clooney” - A hunk of prime rib on ciabatta buns
Kid-Friendly Pizza Quesadillas
- 4 soft flour tortillas
- 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup of marinara sauce
- 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Toppings of your choice (chopped olives, onions, sliced mushrooms)
Grilled Eggplant Wrap
- 3 Japanese eggplants or 1 small Italian eggplant, thinly sliced lengthwise (skin intact)
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 sweet red pepper, sliced in strips
- 2 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- Fresh mozzarella slices
- Fresh arugula
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- 2 large Middle Eastern flatbreads or soft flour tortillas (burrito-size)
- Pesto mayo (below)
- 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 cup of fresh basil
- 1/2 cup of pine nuts
- 1/4 cup of fresh grated parmesan cheese
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
In the food processor, puree the garlic, basil, nuts and spices. Add a stream of olive oil until a smooth texture forms, then add the cheese, blending for 20 seconds. Combine with the mayonnaise and refrigerate until ready to spread.
Catharine Kaufman is a food columnist, devoted chef to critical young patrons (her two daughters) and the most demanding palate, the big kid (her husband). If you want to chew the fat, talk turkey or beef about something, e-mail Katharine at email@example.com. Check out The Kitchen Shrink and company’s healthy foods blog at