Karen Barnaby: (Open) Facing up to delicious sandwiches

Source: vancouversun.com

Three recipes you can play with, adapting them to your liking and that are big enough to serve as a meal

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There’s a book in my collection called Open Sandwiches and Cold Lunches: An Introduction to Danish Culinary Art by Asta Bang and Edith Rode. It was published in 1948 and may be the most opinionated book on sandwiches ever.

From the bread, to the butter, to the mayo, and the order of eating the sandwiches, there’s the right way and the wrong way. There are recipes for apple and onion lard, Royal Air Force Sandwich, Sunday Liverpaste and the more pedestrian shrimp, egg and herring sandwiches. The book will resurface periodically, reminding me to put words to my open-faced sandwich thoughts.

I dropped the idea while being smothered in the green avalanche of avocado toast pouring through my social media feeds. The book resurfaced recently, and I knew it was time.

I don’t think any one culture can lay claim to the invention. All bread-eating populations put stuff on bread and conveyed it to their mouths. The Danes codified it and turned it into a national culinary treasure.


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My favourite thing about the open-face sandwich is creating one. Arranging common and accessible ingredients in an artful manner on a small canvas of bread gives me a feeling of great satisfaction.

If you think you lack the skill to make food look attractive, I think you’ll find that you can make a great looking open-faced sandwich. It’s easy because you can fill the whole slice of bread and not worry about leaving artful spaces or where to put the sauce.

There’s only one thing I don’t like about these sandwiches, and that’s eating them with a knife and fork. I’m a renegade who picks off the ingredients as I please.

The sandwiches I’ve made are big enough to serve as a whole meal and the breads are approximately five by three-and-a-half inches (12.7 x 6.3 cm). If you want a selection to eat, the bread and ingredients can be cut in half or smaller bread can be used to make smaller sandwiches. These recipes are not written in stone, but ideas I hope you will riff on. All you have to do is root around your fridge and cupboards to create a perfectly beautiful sandwich.

Nicoise Style Sandwich.
Nicoise Style Sandwich. Photo by Karen Barnaby

Nicoise Style Sandwich

The ingredients of the classic salad in compact form. I’ve used asparagus in place of the green beans and you can use beans if you wish.

2 large slices bread from a country style loaf

4 tsp (20 mL) softened butter

2 tbsp (30 ml) mayonnaise

4 butter lettuce leaves

6 small asparagus spears, cooked, cooled

1 160 g can oil packed tuna, drained

1 small yukon gold potato, cooked, cooled, peeled


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1 large egg, hard cooked, peeled, halved

6 cherry tomatoes, halved

3 pitted black olives, halved

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) capers

8 fresh basil leaves

Spread the bread with the butter, then the mayonnaise. Arrange the remaining ingredients in any way that pleases you. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Hummus and Naan Sandwich.
Hummus and Naan Sandwich. Photo by Karen Barnaby

Hummus and Naan Sandwich

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend available in large grocery stores and stores specializing in Middle Eastern Ingredients. You can use a sprinkling of oregano instead.

2 pieces naan bread, lightly toasted

1/3 cup (80 ml) hummus, baba ganouj or tzatziki

12 small spinach leaves

1/2 large avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced

3 cooked or pickled beet slices, halved

6 tomato slices

6 cucumber slices

2 radishes, thinly sliced

2 tbsp (30 ml) radish sprouts

1 tsp (5 ml) za’atar

Spread the naan with hummus. Arrange the remaining ingredients in any way that pleases you. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

Iceberg Sandwich Special.
Iceberg Sandwich Special. Photo by Karen Barnaby

Iceberg Sandwich Special

Gluten free and keto, the iceberg lettuce is a crunchy and fresh departure from bread.

2 1-inch (2.5-cm) slices iceberg lettuce

2 tbsp (30 ml) mayonnaise

2 pickle slices, cut in half lengthwise

4 slices salami or Polish sausage

2 slices havarti cheese, each cut into 4 triangles

1/2 large avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced

5 cherry tomatoes, halved

quick pickled shallots to taste

To make iceberg slices, stand the lettuce upright and slice in half. From each half, cut a 1-inch (2.5-cm) slice.


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Spread the lettuce with the mayonnaise and arrange the ingredients in any way that pleases you. Serve immediately.

For the quick pickled shallots, peel and thinly slice 1 large shallot. Place in a small pot with 2 tbsp (30 ml) cider vinegar and a pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vinegar evaporates. Chill.

Makes 2 servings.



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