Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chopped Salad Sandwich.

Chopped salad sandwich, with and without meat. © Ryan Schierling
Oh yes, I’ve heard the jokes… you know the ones, where a sandwich without meat “is just a salad sandwich.” 

Just…? Oh, no.

Admittedly, I’m rather partial to a Cheddar cheese sandwich with picnic mustard and a tall stack of lettuce, so mostly I’ve just rolled my eyes at the whole salad sandwich notion. While Ryan isn’t particularly meat-centric about his sandwiches, he doesn’t generally opt to put lettuce in them either. A cheese sandwich, for him, is historically just that – good ol' American cheese and mayonnaise between two slices of bread. 

Based on our cheese sandwich profiles, we are apparently unfit to helm a food blog of any import. Too lowbrow? So be it, get over it.

On a whim one day when making us lunch, I decided to give the lettuce a little more purpose. We didn’t have a whole lot on hand to work with, except some provolone and a hearty rustic bread. There was middle ground that needed to be found – something beyond bread and cheese, or bread and cheese and lettuce.

I pulled all the salty, briny things out of the fridge and assessed my options. What transpired has remained a well-loved sandwich staple in our home. It's certainly not a muffaletta, but it does take some flavor inspiration from that corner. With the crunch of toasted bread and the wee splash of vinegar and oil, it’s satisfying texturally as well as being full in flavor. Not every sandwich can stand up to a hearty whole grain bread, but this one practically requires it. 
On a subsequent preparation, I tried adding some very thinly-sliced beef salami to Ryan’s sandwich – curious if this option would be beneficial in any meaningful way. His assessment was “the fat... the cheese... is the rudder," and the addition of a few slices of beef salami added only a slightly nuanced difference to the sandwich in this context. So, I'm proud to call this a vegetarian sandwich – a salad sandwich, even – with a perfectly built-in option to emotionally satisfy the expectations of die-hard meat-centric types.

Chopped Salad Sandwich

1 large handful of "shredded" (1/4" sliced) romaine lettuce
2 tablespoons very thinly-sliced, then roughly-chopped, white onion
2 tablespoons chopped tomato (2-3 cherry tomatoes or one small tomato)
3-4 large black or kalamata olives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely-chopped dill pickle
2 peperoncini, finely chopped
Several generous cracks of freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of red pepper flakes
A drizzle of olive oil
A splash of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped marinated artichoke hearts (Optional. And/or add 1 teaspoon of artichoke marinade.)

Mix all of the above in a medium-sized bowl

Toast two slices of rustic bread. Spread inside of both pieces with:  
Real mayonnaise
Dijon mustard

On one slice, layer the following:
2 slices of provolone cheese
Very thinly-sliced beef salami (Omit for meatless sandwich.)
Thinly-sliced tomatoes (Optional, depending on how much/if you include in the lettuce mixture)
Pile on an inch of the lettuce mixture.
Top with the other slice of toasted and dressed bread.

Best served at once.

SALAD NOTE: If you chop the cheese (and beef salami, optionally) and add it to the lettuce mixture, this recipe is also terrific served as a salad. Serve with broiled rustic wheat bread that has been dressed on one side with melted garlic butter (smash a clove of garlic and poach it in butter for a couple of minutes before brushing the bread and toasting under the broiler).

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