This month, The New York Times celebrates the humble sandwich. I was more than excited to read the article as I love to make sandwiches. In fact, I will drive all over our city to buy only the best possible ingredients to build mine. I would highly recommend that you spend a few minutes to read the 'best of the best' run-down in the sandwich world. Oh, and If I happened to open a sandwich shop, it would be called The Earl Of Sandwich. What would yours be called?
Los Angeles is a burger-and-taco town. That said, there is one sandwich that has come to embody California consciousness. It doesn’t really have a name, but its contents, rooted in the hippie rumblings of the 1960s and ’70s, remain immediately identifiable to anyone who has eaten at some “health food” bungalow in Laguna Beach or Topanga Canyon.
There must be fat, ripe wedges of avocado. There should be a fistful of alfalfa sprouts and juicy slices of tomato. Mayonnaise is helpful, to avoid dryness, but purists (and vegans) often opt for hummus instead. Ideally, the bread for this sandwich has to be so rustic and nutty, so stone-ground and multigrained, that your jaw later feels as though it has spent an hour at Pilates.
The mystery of this virtuous repast? It works. On a Santa Barbara patio in the sunshine, this is the sandwich you find yourself wanting to eat.
For a sandwich maker, the two most important considerations are what’s on the inside and what’s on the outside.
The interior should be tasty but streamlined. Good butter and watercress with salt and pepper. Ripe tomatoes and roasted peppers with arugula and garlicky vinaigrette. Fresh mozzarella with black olive tapenade. Fried egg and harissa.
As for the exterior, you must have bread that’s freshly baked, or all is lost.
There’s nothing sadder than a sandwich wrapped in plastic and consigned to the refrigerator case. By the time it’s eaten, the frigid filling has gone soggy and the bread is long past reviving. In this country, that’s often the only choice in an airport or on the train. More’s the pity. Travelers in Europe are luckier; a ham and cheese there has a crisp bun guaranteed.
For the home cook, though, a superlative sandwich is well within reach, so we can blame only ourselves if it is subpar. Whether grilled cheese or peanut butter with dill pickle, excellence is always an option.
Take tuna, for instance. An American cook usually adds mayonnaise to the bowl when dressing canned tuna for a sandwich. Tuna, mayonnaise, chopped celery on sliced store-bought whole-wheat bread, toasted or not. Simple, satisfying and lovely if well made.
There’s nothing wrong with the American way, but I prefer to veer Italian. Italian cooks invariably anoint their tuna with olive oil instead of mayonnaise. In my version, the familiar trinity of capers, olives and anchovy is combined with olive oil, garlic and parsley to make a zesty salsa verde. A split crusty baguette or ciabatta roll is painted liberally with this green sauce. A lettuce leaf or two, some large flakes of tuna and a quartered moist-centered hard-cooked egg. Basta.
For the best results, choose high-quality Italian or Spanish canned tuna. The oil-packed type is generally moister and tastier (but pour off the oil from the can and substitute extra virgin from a bottle).
Italian-Style Tuna Sandwich
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It’s expensive, but well worth it. Would you rather have a memorable tuna sandwich occasionally or a forgettable one twice a week?