I could eat sandwiches and nothing else for the rest of my life. This includes tea sandwiches and canapes. One of my most treasured tearout recipes, and the only remnant I know of of Rosie O’Donnell’s magazine, was fanciful and delicious kids’ lunchbox recipes.*
There are dozens of blogs on bento box lunches for kids which a.) are terrifying in their samurai tiger momness and b.) lack sandwiches and c.) are therefore inherently boring. Terrifying and boring is not my bag. It’s pretty much the definition of hell and in-laws, as far as I can make out.
The sandwich of all sandwiches is of course, Ernest Matthew Mickler‘s potato chip sandwich, in White Trash Cooking: “Pardie Tickette says: ‘Wash it down with a Pepsi, it’s some good!'”
The three best sandwiches I know of carry a heavy cargo of vegetables. Iceberg lettuce has its delights, basically, I think, in a wedge under homemade Iowa Maytag blue cheese dressing, but I don’t like it in sandwiches. Even shredded in tacos. (I have discussed the transcendent virtues of Sammy Gugino’s cabbage slaw for fish tacos qua Mexican cole slaw. I think pretty much every taco would be better with Sammy’s fish taco slaw instead of limp iceberg.)
I once had a discussion over at LiveJournal on the very best sandwiches of all time. The very best were concocted by a Sinophile from New Orleans, who added mint or coriander to every sandwich as a matter of principle — learned, I think I recall, from her shrimp-fishing Vietnamese neighbors on the bayou.
You know that banh mi sandwiches, with French bread, Vietnamese pickled vegetables and grilled meat or pate, the aforementioned mint or coriander, are the best sandwiches in the universe.
Here is Gourmet magazine’s recipe for a chicken and liverwurst banh mi:
1/2 pound daikon, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1/2 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (24-inch) soft baguette
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 pound liverwurst
2 fresh jalapeños, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch rings
3/4 cup packed cilantro sprigs
2 cooked chicken breasts from a rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Shred daikon and carrot in a food processor fitted with medium shredding disk. Stir together vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss with shredded vegetables. Let slaw stand, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat baguette on rack in oven until crusty, about 5 minutes. Cut off and discard round ends, then split baguette.
Mix together oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce and brush on cut sides of bread. Spread liverwurst on bottom layer of bread and top with chiles, onion, and cilantro.
Drain slaw in a colander.
Arrange chicken, slaw, and lettuce on cilantro. Spread top layer of bread with mayonnaise and cut sandwich crosswise into fourths.
Aside from the incredibly delicious daikon/carrot slaw, and the combination of liverwurst and chicken the very idea of which makes me swoon, I think the take-away genius technique of this recipe is the spreading of the bread with the oil/fish sauce/soy sauce mixture. That could make any sandwich worth eating, even a scaled-back, budget, skinny, or semi-vegetarian banh mi consisting just of slaw, coriander, and fish sauce. Mmmmm.
I do believe the flavoring on the spread, and the care with which the spread is taken to the very edge of the bread, and beyond, is the secret of a good sandwich. Just as anchovy butter is the real secret of every tea sandwich you have ever eaten, whether you know it or not, and whether or not you like anchovy, another just-let-me-die-now sekrit spread is miso mayonnaise. Oh god.
Mrs. Grieder of the famous Gay Head luncheonette in Martha’s Vineyard wouldn’t let anybody else make her lobster rolls, according to Louise Tate King. The secret was — aside from buckets of hour-old lobster — carefully spreading the hot dog roll to its edge with butter, and grilling it very slowly. Add lots of finely minced celery, and a touch of grated onion if you’re feeling less Puritan, mayo, and the lobster.
Almost as delicious are my two candidates for Healthy Lunch Meat, one from the late Griffin Market, at 28th and P in Georgetown, and one I ganked from the over-explanatory food-trendy menu at Cafe Lula in Chicago.
The Griffin Market one isn’t particularly calorie- or budget-conscious, so I save it for very special occasions. The Cafe Lula one I save to eat until there are real tomatoes ripening on the vine. It’s a summer sammie.
Griffin Market Special
Two slices wheat bread
Russian dressing (mayo, catsup, sweet pickle relish)
Spread one slice with Russian. Layer on avocado (salt and pepper), thinly sliced Havarti, smoked turkey, sprouts. Cover with slice two, cut into triangles, and enjoy.
Cafe Lula Tineka Sandwich
Two slices wheat bread
Crunchy peanut butter
Sambal bajak (Indonesian chili relish)
Sweet soy sauce (not optional, no subsitutes)
Spread one slice with peanut butter, a scant 1/4-inch. Spread 1/8 teaspoon sambal over peanut butter — and do not flatter yourself, Jalapeno Boy, that you’re bigger than sambal.
Drizzle a modicum of sweet soy sauce over.
Add cucumber, red onion, tomato and sprouts (I like “spicy sprouts”) — I like my veg thinly sliced up to three layers, rather than one layer of chunky. Awesome sauce, thy name is tineka sandwich.
I’m still working on the recipe I ganked from Alice’s Tea Cup , for a sandwich of cumin-roasted carrots, olive tapenade and goat cheese on black sesame semolina bread. It is quite the project, but roasted carrots and tapenade together are a ravishing combination, to the eye and to the palate.
*This is from a 2002 post of mine elsewhere. Rosie magazine kids’ lunch recipes:
Mama Mia Lunch Box
make-your-own pepperoni pitzas
green beans with creamy parmesan dip
lemonade juice box
2 T thick pitza sauce
2 mini (4 in.) whole-wheat pita breads
2 heaping T shredded pizza-cheese blend
8 thin slices pepperoni
(from 3.5 oz.) pkg
Pack sauce in container with lid. Pack in insulated lunch box with ice pack, along with other kit ingredients, each wrapped separately. Spread 1 Tbsp sauce over each pita; top with cheese and pepperoni.
Green Beans with Creamy Parmesan Dip
1/4 c + 1 Tbsp light sour cream
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp each olive oil and 82 % less fat mayonnaise
1 1/2 t cider vinegar
1 t soy sauce
1/4 t sugar
4 each green beans and yellow wax beans, cooked until crisp tender, drained, cooled
Dip. In mini food processor, blend all ingredients until thick an creamy. Makes about 2/3 cup dip, enough for 3 servings. (Can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
oven-fried chicken drum sticks
macaroni and cheddar cheese salad
raspberry applesauce cup
frozen portable yoghurt stick
Oven Fried Chicken Drumsticks
8 drumsticks (2 1/2 lbs.)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tsp garlic flavored hot red pepper sauce
non-stick cooking spray
1 box extra crispy coating mix for chix (4.2 oz.)
1/4 c grated Parmesan
In 1-gallon resealable plastic food storage bag, combine chicken, buttermilk, and pepper sauce; seal bag. Refrig several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Coat foil with spray. In bowl, stir together coating mix and cheese. Drain chix; coat with coating mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.
Bake 20 mins; turn over. Bake 20 mins or until crispy and chicken is cooked through. (Can be refrig for up to 2 days.) Pack in insulated lunch box with ice pack.
Macaroni and Cheddar Cheese Salad
1/3 c rotelle (wagon-wheel shaped pasta)
1/2 oz yellow cheddar cheese, cut into small dice
2 Tbsp each finely diced seeded plum tomato and celery
1 1/2 tbsp frozen green peas, thawed under running water and drained
1 Tbsp each 82 % less fat mayo and light sour cream
2 tsp each milk and sweet pickle relish
1/4 t yellow mustard (DO NOT OMIT!!!!)
Cook pasta following package directions; drain in colander. Rinse under cold water, drain. In bowl, toss pasta with remaining ingreds until evenly coated. Can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated. Pack in insulated etc.
strawberry banana smoothie
homemade granola bars
mozarella-cheddar string cheese
portable pudding stick
Strawberry Banana Smoothie
1 small ripe banana, cut up
1 8 oz. container low-fat strawberry-banana yoghurt
1/2 c sliced strawberries, hulled and rinsed (FROZEN!!!!!!)
1 t honey or to taste
1 c ice cubes, crushed if large
Place all ingredients in blender. Process until thick and smooth. Pour into 2-cup plastic drinking cup with tight-fitting lid and built in straw. Refrig until ready to pack in lunch box. Pack in insulated etc.
Homemade Granola Bars
Nonstick cooking spray
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cook)
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 cups each dried cranberries, finely diced dried apricots, and raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 c toasted wheat germ
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 325. Line a 13 by 9 by 2 in baking pan with foil, extending foil 2 in beyond each short side of the pan; lightly coat foil with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine all ingreds for bars until evenly moistened and blended. Spoon granola mixture into prepared baking pan; firmly press mixture to form compact, even layer.
BAke for 45 minutes, turning pan 180 degrees on over rack once, halfway through baking, or until top is golden brown. L:et bar cool in pan on wire rack.
Carefully remove bar from baking pan by lifting ends of aluminum foil; carfefully peel off foil from bottom of bar. Transfer bar to cutting board. Cut bar lengthwise into 6 long strips; cut each strip cross-wise into 4 bars. (Can be stored in air tight container at room temp for up to 3 days.)
creamy tomato soup
ham and cheese stickwiches
fruited gelatin cup
raisin snack box
Creamy Tomato Soup
This soup is delicious hot or cold.
1 lb ripe tomatoes, in small chunks
1 1/2 cups canned vegetable broth
1/3 c each finely chopped onion and celery
1/4 c tomato paste
2 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1 tsp each soy sauce and sugar [DO NOT OMIT!!!!!!]
Dash hot red pepper sauce
1/4 c light sour cream
In a medium saucepan, bring all ingreds except sour cream, to a boil stirring to blend tomato paste into broth. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover. Simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion and celery are tender. Let cool slightly. Transfer mixture to blender; add sour cream. Puree until smooth. Fill small thermos (1 cup) with some hot soup, or chill soup overnight and serve cold.
Ham and Cheese Stickwiches
4 very thin slices Virginia ham
4 very thin slices Muenster cheese
2 (8-in. long) thick cheese straws or plain or cheddar bread sticks
On work surface, arrange 1 slice ham and 1 slice cheese, both slices lengthwise and overlapping, so combination slice is about 5 inches long. Top with another 1 slice each ham and cheese, putting ham over bottom cheese slice and cheese over bottom ham slice. Place one straw at bottom left edge of stack on diagonal; roll stack around straw. Wrap in plastic. Repeat with remaining ham, cheese, and straw. Pack in insulated etc.
veggies with cream cheese dip
sesame bagel crisps
chocolate-vanilla swirl pudding cup
wild cherry juice drink pouch
Veggies with Cream Cheese Dip
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp light sour cream
1/4 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp each sliced scallion and chopped parsley
Veggie Dippers (choose your child’s favorites)
2 cups celery sticks, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, zucchini spears
Dip: In mini food processor, blend cheese, sour cream and garlic. Add scallion and parsley; pulse 3 or 4 times to blend. Scrape into 2 small containers; refrig. Divide veg dippers into two containers. Pack 1 container dippers and 1 container dip in insulated, etc.
Kids’ Club Lunch Box
pb&j banana club sandwich
snack-size bag baby carrots
v-8 splash fruit medley juice box
PB&J Banana Club Sandwich
3 slices cinnamon-raisin bread
2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
2 tsp raspberry jam
1/2 banana, sliced
1 Tbsp Nutella (hazelnut spread)
On one bread slice, spread 1 T peanut butter evenly, all the way to the edge; spread with jam. Spread the remaining peanut butter on second slice of bread; top with banana slices, then spread evenly with Nutella. Place on top of peanut-butter and jam slice, banana side up. Top with remaining bread slice for triple-decker sandwich. With a serrated knife, cut sandwich into quarters. Wrap in foil. Pack in insulated, etc.
Gimme Five Lunch Box
crisp vegetable sticks (Terra Stix)
white chocolate-dipped fruit
1 (3 oz.) can solid-white tuna in water or oil, drained
3 Tbsp 82 % less fat mayo
1 Tbsp each finely diced celery and sweet pickle relish
2 tsp minced red onion
pinch each s + p
4 large slices 10-grain whole wheat bread (each slice about 4 1/2 x 4 1/4 in), toasted
Hand-shaped cutter (4 1/2 x 4 in)
In a small bowl, mash tuna, 2 T mayo, celery, relish, onion, s + p.
Cut toasted bread into “hands” with cutter; save trimmings for snacking.
On work surface, line up 2 toast hands as left hands, 2 others as right hands. Spread each hand with the remaining mayo (3/4 t per hand). Spread tuna over left hands. Top with right hands. Gently press together. Place handwiches on paper plates; wrap. Pack in insulated etc.
White Chocolate-Dipped Fruit
1 (8 oz) microwavable carton creamy white shell coating (Dulci frutta)
2 large strawberries, preferrably with stems, rinsed, dried
3 navel orange segments
2 clusters green seedless grapes (about 4 grapes per cluster), rinsed, dried
Open coating carton. Microwave on medium power 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds with rubber spatula until melted and smooth. Dip fruit into coating halfway, letting excess drip back into container. Place on waxed paper; let stand until hardened, about 15 minutes. (Dipped fruit can be refrig up to 2 days.) Let remaining coating cool and harden in container; cover with lid (can be remelted and used for more dipping). Pack dipped fruit in shallow 2 cup plastic container with tight-fitting lid. Pack in insulated, etc.
bbq turkey and cheese wrap
cocoa rice cereal treats
apple juice box
BBQ Turkey and Cheese Wrap
1 (10-in.) tomato-flavored flour tortilla or sandwich wrap, softened according to directions
1 Tbsp each BBQ sauce and 82 % less fat mayo
1 large green-leaf lettuce leaf, center core removed
2 thin slices deli turkey breast
2 very thin slices tomato
2 slices American cheese [NOTTTTTT!!!!]
Place tortilla flat. Spoon mayo and BBQ sauce onto center. Spread to cover tortilla. Top with lettuce. Place turkey in center, leaving 1 1/2 in. border around the edge. Layer on tomato and cheese. Bring tortilla edge closest to you up and over filling to enclose. Fold sides in; roll up, burrito style.
Wrap in waxed paper. Cut in half diagonally. Wrap halves (keep in paper) tightly in plastic wrap. (Can be made 1 day ahead and refrig.) Pack in insulated, etc.
1 carrot, peeled, shredded
1/2 small Golden Delicious apple, cored, coarsely shredded
2 Tbsp each dried zante currants and 82% less fat mayo
1 tsp each distilled white vinegar and sugar [DO NOT OMIT!!!!]
Mix ingredients. Pack in plastic container (can make 2 days ahead). Pack in insulated, etc.
Cocoa Rice Cereal Treats
Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 (10-oz) bag marshmallows
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
1 t vanilla extract
6 cups toasted cocoa-flavored rice cereal
1/2 cup min candy-coated chocolate baking bits (M&Ms)
Line 13 x 9 x 2 in. baking pan with foil, extending foil 2 in. beyond each short side; coat with cooking spray.
In a 6-quart pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in marshmallows until almost melted. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla until blended and smooth. Stir in cereal until evenly coated.
Press marshmallow mixture into pan. Sprinkle with bits; press down.
Let cool. Cut into 24 squares. Store up to 1 week in air tight container.