experiments in sandwich making

I recently (like five months ago) decided to get a new chef’s knife, which in general has worked out really well.  You’d be amazed at how much difference a sharp knife can make when you are, you know, cutting things.  Like vegetables and what not.  They also say a sharp knife is safer than a dull one, because the knife won’t slip and cut your fingers.  Which is true unless you happen to bring the knife down directly on your finger while carelessly and quickly chopping some ginger.  Then you may cut off a quarter of the fingernail on your thumb.  But at least you didn’t cut off (very much) of your thumb?  So I had a bit of an accident (gory side note: it’s amazing how much finger looks like ginger when side by side).

So where before I came to appreciate sharp knives, now I appreciate opposable thumbs, which are ‘handy’ when doing all sorts of things, including, ironically, opening bandages.  But will this prevent me from using my sharp knife to cut stuff and then cook it?  NO!  I will just be more careful.

So today I want to share with you an idea, and you will tell me if it’s totally ridiculous and stupid, which is probably is.  The inspirations are multifold.  First, I had an umami burger.  Wasn’t my first, won’t be my last.  Anyway, of all the umami elements, I was taken with the parmesan ‘crisp’ they used instead of melty cheese.  Then I bought some beautiful kale at the farmer’s market, and I’ve been wanting to make baked kale chips as well.  Wouldn’t those go well with the parmesan crisps?  Yes, but somewhat uniform in texture.  I remembered the acidic, flavorful quinoa I had at the lazy ox.  So I could make a sort of quinoa salad, but that didn’t feel substantive enough.  Perhaps some bread?  Yes, bread!  Then I would have a sandwich.  That’s a thing, right, a sandwich.  Perhaps an open faced sandwich.  But now I have quinoa in my sandwich.  Is that weird?  Let’s see.

Pt 1: The bread

I wanted something hefty but sweet, so I borrowed Mark Bittman’s formula to make a wheat-raisin-walnut bread.  No not the famous no-knead bread (which has never actually worked for me), but the recipe in his How to Cook Everything Book  (recipe at the link).  I added half a cup of carefully chopped walnuts along with half a cup of rasins.  I used two cups white wheat flour and 1.5 cups bread flour.  Bread flour is key when making bread, especially if are also using wheat flour, because otherwise it will come out the consistency of a brick.  Voila:

2. Parmesan Crisps

Very simple.  Oven to 375.  Grease a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Pour 1-tablespoon mounds of finely grated parmesan cheese three inches apart on the baking sheet.  Squash each mound with the back of the tablespoon.  At this point you can add in other dry spices.  I used black pepper.  No need for salt!

To be honest, the parmesan crisps resonated with me because I saw Alton Brown make them years ago and have been meaning to try making them myself.  So now I have.  The crisps came out very crispy and are a pretty intense flavor.  I think I let them stay in the oven a bit longer than shown in this video, because they were definitely not mouldable.

3. Kale Chips

One can’t have two kinds of chips in the same sandwich, hence the earlier ‘parmesan crisps’ designation.  Anyway, this is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while also, ever since I first saw Jody Adams make them on top chef masters.  These are pretty easy also: you pretty much just tear up (or – carefully – use your knife to cut) kale into medium (2″ x 2″ ?) pieces, sans stem, dress them in oil, put on a baking sheet lined with greased parchment paper, and stick them in the oven for 10 min at 300 or so.  Make sure the pieces aren’t touching.  If you bake them too long they become a little crumbly, so keep an eye on them.  Smitten Kitchen has a recipe with nice pictures.  What I did, which I highly recommend, is to dress them in a liquid containing equal parts vegetable oil and soy sauce and add in a half teaspoon (to taste) of cayenne pepper.  This really made them delicious, and a great ‘snack’.

Here’s a picture of the Kale before baking:

and after…

4. Quinoa with leeks and cherry tomatoes.

Here’s where it gets weird.  The thing is, the way I make quinoa it sticks together anyway, and so maybe it won’t be so weird?  Well, first, let’s talk about the quinoa.  I sautéed some leeks with garlic, quartered cherry tomates, and parsley to finish, and added them to a pot of cooked quinoa (I started with 1.5 cups dry).  The thing with quinoa is to cook it past when you think it may be done, because there is always some moisture left in there, and if you don’t cook that off you may get a sloppy mess.  Usually I cook it covered until it’s mostly done, and then uncover to finish it.  Then add the vegetables.  Since I had some grated parmesan from the crisps, I added a couple tablespoons into the quinoa, which is a tasty thing to do anyway, but which also aids in helping it stick together a bit.  Then, I added the juice of one lemon, and some red wine vinegar for good measure.  I really wanted it to be acidic.  Of course everything is to taste.

Now that everything was in order, I put in on a sandwich.  Yes, I’m going there.  Come with me.

I sort of squashed the quinoa down which maybe makes it less pretty.  But still, respectable right?  You could eat it with a fork and knife and it would be like having a salad with a piece of bread.  But then I took it a step further.

And now I just made a quinoa sandwich.  With wheat bread and kale.  WHAT IS GOING ON?  Fine, maybe I haven’t fully adapted to being a meat eater, at least in my cooking instincts.  Disparage me for making quinoa sandwiches if you must, but I will soldier on.  Or if I retreat, it will only be to substitue marinated tofu and red pepper relish in for the quinoa.

Actually, it was a pretty good sandwich.  The elements worked as expected, and the kale was surprisingly spicy, which was awesome.  Maybe a little too salty, which is mostly because something about baking parmesan really brings out the saltiness.  The quinoa stayed in the sandwich and the whole thing was very filling and not messy at all.

But if you don’t want to make a quinoa sandwich, what else could you pair with the parmesan-kale-raisin wheat bread combo?  The aforementioned tofu would be good, or maybe a portobello mushroom marinated in a vinaigrette and baked?  Or…well I guess a burger would be good in this situation.  You could just make a burger.

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2 Responses to experiments in sandwich making

  1. Rachel M. says:

    hmm, intriguing. i never really make sandwiches, but i aspire to. i’ve also made (and been disappointed by) kale chips in the past, but maybe i’ll give your soy sauce tip a try. i do love myself some soy sauce.

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