Don't worry: I don't intend to take you back to those horrific high school days, when you woke up so late that you had to rush in the kitchen to fix yourself a sandwich with a blend of Cheese Whiz and strawberry jam packed with pectin in thirty seconds or less, or you would miss the school bus. Those days are gone my friend, so rest easy. Instead, I would like to introduce you to a world of wonders made of bread, all sorts of breads… A world perfectly suited for your need of quick meals specifically designed for your avid inner paddler and your recently found passion for gourmet dishes that are ALSO excellent for your health…
A bit of history
The sandwich has a long history. It begins with Rabbi Hillel, who lived during the first Century B.C. He started the Passover custom of spreading a mixture of apples, nuts, spices, wine and bitter herbs between two matzohs serving it up as a reminder of what the Jewish People had to endure during their years of slavery in Egypt. Then, in the Middle Ages, the sandwich took the form of two thick slices of bread called trenchers used as an ideal replacement for plates. Finally, the modern sandwich is considered to be an invention of John Montague, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who loved gambling so much that he could not leave the poker table even at meal time. Instead, he asked his valet to prepare him some meat tucked between two slices of bread. His teammates found this compromise very appealing and started to order "the same as Sandwich!" The rest is history…
A perfect paddler's companion
Today, sandwiches take hundreds of different forms and are found in every culinary tradition throughout the world: French Pan Bagnat or Paris-beurre baguette, Mexican tortilla, Libanese Falafel or Shawarma, Italian Ciabatta, Indian Roti, Montreal Smoked meat, American Ruben or Club sandwich… And because they are a complete meal and the quintessential finger food, sandwiches also appear to be a perfect paddler's companion. But there's a challenge here: how to avoid the ham-and-cheese syndrome of your lunch box years? How to create something that won't take you back to your boring Monday-to-Friday noon meal menu? The answer is simple: by treating yourself to the best, most varied and freshest breads filled with an original mix of high quality garnishes.
A few rules of thumb
- Food security is often an issue for paddlers. So don't forget to place your fancy creations in a plastic box and to pack it in an insulated bag with icepacks above and below.
- Ideally, carry fragile garnishes like tomatoes and lettuce separately and add them at the last minute to avoid a soggy sandwich.
- When you stuff a bun with different fillings, first cut it in half and remove about one third of the bread that's inside. This will prevent messy leakage.
How to create the best sandwiches
- For the best sandwiches, try to buy gourmet breads fresh daily at an artisan bakery or at your local supermarket. You can also buy them in advance, wrap and freeze them individually. Thaw it before you make your favorite sandwich.
- Whole grain breads are rich in precious fibers and are more nutritious than white breads.
- To make a delicious sandwich that's not boring, be adventurous. You need to match many ingredients in order to get an interesting result. Here's a quick list to choose from:
1- Pick a fresh gourmet bread: Ciabatta, Focaccia, Pugliese, Kayser, crusty submarine, Portugese, sourdough, Azim, whole wheat Pita, Nan, Sunflower, whole wheat, Ancient grains, French baguette, poppy seed bagel, whole grain tortilla, buckwheat, rye, nut bread, etc.
2- Decide on one unusual spread (or more): gourmet mustards, soy or regular mayonnaise, designer or homemade ketchup and relish, creamy dressing, basil, cilantro or tomato pesto, spicy chutney, non fat sour cream, almond, soy or apple butter, pureed lentils or white beans with olive oil and garlic, hommos, vegetarian pâté, liver pâté, grilled vegetable spread, etc.
3- Add some tasty and healthful proteins: marinated and roasted lean meats or homemade meat dishes (chicken, beef, lamb, pork, meatballs cut in halves, meatloaf, etc.); some not-too-greasy cold cuts (ham, roasted turkey, Prosciutto di Parma, roast beef, grilled lean gourmet sausages cut in halves, maybe a slice or two of Rosette de Lyon or dry summer sausage); smoked game or fish (duck, bison, salmon, mackerel, trout, sturgeon, oysters); canned or fresh fish and seafood (tuna, salmon, crab, grilled mahi-mahi, Nordic shrimps, sardines, baby clams, lobster, etc.); marinated and grilled extra-firm tofu, hard boiled eggs, Feta cheese, Blue cheese, creamy cottage or goat cheese, aged Cheddar, sliced Havarti, fresh Mozzarella di buffala, Parmegiano di Reggiano, Provolone, etc.
4- Garnish with some delightful fruits and/or vegetables: Aragula, avocado, Bibb or butter lettuce, Romaine hearts, baby spinach, marinated and grilled artichokes, asparagus, leeks, eggplants, onions, zucchini, bell peppers, Portobello or Shitake mushrooms, chopped celery, green or red onions, fresh tomatoes, radishes, sprouts, cucumbers, grated carrots, etc. Fruits often match nicely with many cold cuts, spreads, seafood and cheeses. Try some pieces of pear, apple, orange or grapefruit, mango, peach; add currents, cranberries, blueberries, pineapples.
5- The finishing touch: stylish condiments and spices: Green and black chopped olives, toasted pecans or peanuts, chopped pistachio, anchovy paste, capers, edible flowers, daisy capers, fruit or tomato salsa, sesame, extra-virgin olive or truffle oil, balsamic vinegar, dry tomatoes, pickles, hot marinated peppers, Thaï sauce, Sambal Olek, a bit of honey, fresh coriander, chives, mint, dill, Italian parsley, basil, dry fennel seeds, cumin, tumeric, marjoram, oregano, paprika, designer salts and exotic peppers, etc.
Some of my favorite paddling sandwiches
Turkey and cranberry wrap: mayonnaise, grainy German mustard, light cream cheese and chunky cranberry sauce mixed together and spread on a whole wheat tortilla with some thin slices of roasted turkey, Havarti cheese and Butter lettuce
New England clam bun: light creamy cottage cheese, light sour cream, green onions, finely diced celery, small chunks of pineapples, a bit of fresh mint and Italian parsley pureed together and mixed with some canned drained baby clams, a dash of Tabasco sauce and a tiny bit of lemon pulp and zest. Serve it on a multigrain Kayser roll.
Grilled chicken gourmet sandwich: Chose a good crusty bread and cut two thick slices that you will cover with a mixture of mayonnaise and spicy chutney. Then add the chicken, cover with some avocado slices dipped in lemon juice, a few fresh mango slices, some aragula leaves; sprinkle with salt, cumin powder and some sprigs of fresh cilantro.
Italian submarine: Cut a Ciabatta bun in two; remove one third of the bread inside and spread on some basil pesto, add Italian ham, a few slices of salami and Provolone cheese. Garnish with marinated eggplant, grilled bell pepper and zucchini, a few dry tomatoes in olive oil, hot peppers and chopped green and black olives. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and warm up at 450 F. for about 15 minutes. When heated through, put it right away in the cooler with some icepacks. Many sandwiches are delicious served this way, because the flavours will blend nicely while they cool.
Extreme tofu sandwich: marinate some slices of extra-firm tofu in a mixture of lemon juice, tamari, fresh ginger and a bit of sesame oil and honey. Then grill it in a skillet on both sides until golden. Place the tofu in a whole wheat pita cut in half and spread with some soy mayonnaise. Garnish it with some pear slices, chopped pistachio, grated carrots dripped with the tofu marinade, green onions, fresh cilantro, some sprouts and baby spinach.