On a recent day in the Los Angeles Farmer's Market, a sprawling acre of flawless produce and ethnic food stands, this is what people were having for lunch:
Thick slabs of corned beef on floppy, oversized rye bread. Smokey open-pit sliced barbecue on soft twist rolls. Danish-style open-faced seafood sandwiches. Felafel, deep-fried chick-pea balls and Israeli salad stuffed into half a pita bread with a dash of nippy hot sauce.
There wasn't a BLT on toast in the place.
It goes to show that a sandwich can and should be more than something edible slapped between two slices of bread. There is no reason why creativity in sandwichmaking must be limited to what's available at the deli counter of the nearest supermarket.
Alden Robertson, who advocates an anything-goes approach in "The No Baloney Sandwich Book" (Doubelday, 1978), warns against the familiar Madison Avenue enticements: "We are buying prepackaged, sliced, sandwichsized, processed meat and cheese, spreads and breads not because they are especially good or even cheap, but because they are easy to use."
A sandwich can be anything from those dainty watercress and cucumber numbers ladies like to serve at tea parties to those that rival the girth and intricacy of a Dagwood. A sandwich can make an hors d'oeuvre, a snack or a meal.
The art started back in the 18th century when a fellow named John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, developed such a penchant for gambling that he refused to leave the tables to eat his meals. The rest is history.
When making sandwiches ahead, wrap them in wax paper, foil or plastic to keep fresh, and store them in the refrigerator. Spreading a thin layer of butter helps keep the bread from getting soggy. Avoid freezing fillings which contain mayonnaise, cream cheese or salad vegetables.
Perhaps the best-known American sandwich, this is the winner that made Reuben's Restaurant of New York famous. You may find variations using cole slaw for the sauerkraut or adding a slice of turkey to the corned beef. There are two schools for everything, it seems. 3 slices pumpernickel Russian dressing 4 slices corned beef 4 teaspoons sauerkraut 2 slices Swiss cheese Butter
Spread one side of 2 slices of bread with Russian dressing. Place 2 slices corned beef, 2 teaspoons sauerkraut, and 1 slice Swiss cheese on each slice. Stack these 2 slices of bread and top with the plain slice. Hold together with a toothpick. Butter outsides of bread. Grill until cheese melts.
France's most renowned sandwich is simply a French-toasted ham-and-cheese. Some people prefer to grill it in butter, without the egg-and-milk batter. 4 slices white or French bread Mustard 2 slices ham 2 slices cheese 1 egg 1/2 cup milk 1/4 teaspoon salt Butter
Spread mustard on each slice of bread. Prepare 2 ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Combine egg, milk and salt in a bowl; beat lightly. Dip each sandwich in egg-and-milk mixture, coating both sides. Brown both sides in butter in a hot frying pan.
In Israel, street vendors sell felafel sandwiches as outdoor snacks. It is so popular that it is sometimes called the "Israeli hot dog." Most Israelis buy the felafel mix and a bottled tahini sauce.
An Israeli acquiantance, who has tried them all, says the best felafel mix is Falafel Mira, available at Aphrodite Greek Imports at Bailey's Crossroads. She says these felafel come out larger and fluffier because of the baking powder in the mix.
To make felafel from scratch, put the contents of a can of chick peas into boiling salted water. When tender, take them out and mash them, adding salt, pepper and cumin to taste. Form this mixture into small balls. Fill a deep pot half full of oil. When the oil is hot, deep fry the balls until they are golden brown.
To make the felafel sandwich, cut a hand-size slit in the top of a whole pita bread. Stuff in 3 or 4 felafel balls, 1 tablespoon Israeli salad (made by finely chopping cucumber, tomato, green pepper, sometimes cabbage, shredded carrot), 3 or 4 more felafel balls, more salad, and a bit of sauerkraut at the top, if desired. Take tahini sauce (ground sesame seed) and dilute it with water. Add lemon juice, parsley and spices (salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika). Pour 2 or 3 teaspoons of tahini sauce mixture down through the sandwich. Some Israelis add a little hot red pepper sauce or a fried potato on top for decoration.
Souvlaki refers to the marinated meat, usually lamb, on skewers sold in restaurants all over Greece. Here, it has been made into a popular and tasty sandwich sold in carryouts. This is the way John, who makes souvlaki at the Greek-owned carryout in my neighborhood, describes the process. He uses pork instead of lamb.
If your grocery carries it, buy pork tenderloin. If not, buy "pork loin sirloin half" and cut out the center strip. You will need 4 or 5 ounces of meat per sandwich. Cut the meat into chunks. Marinate it for 24 hours in oil with sliced onion, dry red wine, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Take it out. Cook the meat with fried onions and green pepper in a frying pan until done. Spread mayonnaise on both sides of a sub roll or pita bread. Add chopped lettuce and tomato, the meat, fried onions and green pepper, and chunks of feta cheese. Warm in the oven until cheese becomes soft.
OYSTER LOAF POOR BOY
(2 or 3 servings)
The poor boy in New Orleans' version of the submarine sandwich (hero or grinder, depending on where you come from).
This particular poor boy is sometimes called a "peacemaker" since a 19th-century New Orleans husband who had stayed too long in the French Quarter saloons is said to have brought this sandwich home to his wife as a peace offering. 1 dozen medium-sized oysters 2 cups bread crumbs 1/2 stick butter 1 long loaf French bread 1/2 cup tartar sauce (see recipe) 1 1/2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded 1/2 lemon 1 large tomato, sliced Salt
Melt butter in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Drain and dry oysters, roll in bread crumbs until covered, and saute in butter. Cook for about 5 minutes, turning gently with a fork.
Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise, hollow out each half, and spread with butter. Heat the bread in the oven or under the broiler for just a minute. Spread both halves with tartar sauce and lay shredded lettuce all along the bottom half. Lay the oysters on top of the lettuce and squeeze lemon juice over them. Arranged sliced tomato on top and salt. Cover with the other half loaf and divide into 2 or 3 portions. Serve warm.
TARTAR SAUCE 1 cup mayonnaise 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 pinch cayenne 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon lemon juice 1/4 cup green onions, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped 2 tablespoons dill pickle, chopped
Mix up a bath of this sauce well before you plan to use it as it taste best after the flavors have had time to blend. Makes 1 1/2 cups. CAPTION: Illustrations land 2, no caption, By Robin Jareaux - The Washington Post