Archive | Spreads RSS feed for this section

Stuffed Picnic Sandwich with Olive Tapenade

28 May

The sun was out.  For a solid two weeks, the sun was out.  We ate meals outdoors, we made ice cream, we rode our bikes, and sometimes, if we played our cards right, we did all three of those things in one day.  It was a glorious time.  Spring, as I have mentioned one or two or a million times before, is usually a rather difficult time here in the Pacific Northwest.  The rain is persistent, the temperature rarely creeps above a somewhat insulting 60 degrees, and the fact that one nearly always spends Memorial Day weekend wearing rain boots starts to seem sort of grueling.

But a week and a half ago?  Oh, let’s talk about that.  Temperatures crept near the 90s, the sun was shining each and every day, and we spent as much time outdoors as humanly possible.  Perhaps best of all, we made the season’s inaugural bike ride downtown to have a picnic dinner on the waterfront.  My love of picnics remains unrivalled, so this event was a spectacularly big deal for me.  I spent most of the morning thinking about what I would pack for our picnic, and by the time I picked up my son from school, the answer was clear.  What do you take on a very important picnic?  Why, you take the World’s Best Picnic Sandwich, of course.

Why the World’s Best?  Let’s start with the construction, an ingenious method of hollowing out a good portion of a hearty round loaf of artisan bread in order to create a cozy little nest for the sandwich’s fillings.  The fillings in question can be altered to satisfy the tastes of the people eating the sandwich, but I nearly always go for the solid combination of provolone cheese, peppered turkey, roasted peppers, lots of leafy greens, and, though I forgot them this time around, big, juicy slices of tomato.  However, let me back up just one moment and mention what might be the crowning achievement of this sandwich: the olive tapenade.  Wonderfully flavorful, the tapenade is the secret weapon of this sandwich, harmonizing tastes and textures and adding that little bit of something extra that makes this sandwich a real standout.

All in all, this is a sandwich of note, and its presence at our first waterfront picnic of the season could not have been more appreciated.  All we need now is some more warm weather so we can have more picnics (because right now it is 52 degrees and raining and…let’s not talk about it).

Last Year: Orecchiette with Grated Garlic and Tomato

Stuffed Picnic Sandwich with Olive Tapenade Recipe

This sandwich has a lot in common with a traditional muffalleta sandwich, though the tapenade in this sandwich is decidedly less loud than the standard olive salad found in a muffaletta.  This sandwich also lacks the selection of meats found in a muffaletta, though you can certainly swap out a variety of meats depending on your tastes and desires.  One step that I find is crucial in making this sandwich really sing is the rest time.  Wrapping your sandwich, either in slices or as one whole loaf, and allowing it to rest in the refrigerator for a bit really makes the flavors meld together and create a nearly perfect finished product that is worthy of the Sandwich Hall of Fame (is that not a real thing?  I think that should be a real thing).

1 loaf French boule or another round artisan-style loaf of bread

6 ounces thinly-sliced pepper turkey (or another meat or combination of meats of your choice)

3 ounces provolone cheese (or another good sandwich cheese)

1 roasted pepper, sliced into strips, top and seeds removed (instructions on how to roast a pepper can be found here)

1 large handful of raw spinach eaves

1 large handful of arugula leaves

Olive Tapenade

1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives

1 large clove garlic, smashed and finely minced

1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley leaves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

optional: a nice glug of balsamic vinegar

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix together thoroughly.  Add pepper to taste, and add balsamic vinegar if you think the tapenade needs a bit of an acidic kick (some people think the balsamic fights with the taste of the rest of the sandwich, so adding it is entirely optional).

To construct sandwich, cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise.  Tear out half an inch to one inch of the soft middle of the bread, leaving the bottom of the loaf shallower an the top (leaving a deeper space in the top of the loaf allows you to pile your sandwich ingredients higher with less threat of the sandwich collapsing).  You can reserve the torn-out bread in a plastic bag and freeze it for another use (bread brumbs, romesco sauce, etc.).

Spread the insides of both the top and bottom bread halves with the olive tapenade.  On the bottom half, add a handful of greens, then layer on the turkey, the cheese, and the roasted pepper slices.  Add another handful of greens, then place the top half of the loaf (the lid) over everything.  Slice the loaf into 6 or 8 individual sandwiches, depending on how large you want your servings to be.  Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap, and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (though letting everything rest longer, even overnight, produces a smoother-tasting, more flavorful sandwich).

Makes 6 or 8 individual sandwiches.  Or 4 individual sandwiches.  Or, heck, even 2 (in which case, I salute you).

Indian Turkey Burgers with Green Chutney

23 May

Not being a burger and fries type of person (or, to clarify, not being a burger person, but definitely being a fries person), I sometimes feel as though classic summer cookouts are a bit of a strange land for me to navigate.  Can I still claim to be a devotee of summer grilling if I don’t necessarily want to eat what I grill?  It’s no secret that I am extremely interested in trying out new and interesting ways to showcase meats that I do not eat, but I often wonder how long I can keep up my routine.  After a while, people might stop trusting me when I churn out meat dish after meat dish, all accompanied by a footnote that says “I did not eat this, but everyone around me who did eat it loved it.”  It sounds suspicious, I have to admit.

So, in the interest of fully vetting a grill-worthy dish that everyone, including me, will love, I set my sights on coming up with a great summer cookout burger that, upon completion, I would have no problem tucking into.  Sort of a hybrid of a kebab and a burger, this Indian-spiced patty is a lovely addition to any outdoor grill, and, with its savory Indian spices and juicy, toothsome bite, it’s a great unifier for those who love burgers and those who might possibly be just a tad wary of a standard burger.

Topping everything off with a kicky, fresh green chutney ties everything together nicely, and, sandwiched with cucumber slices into a piece of warm naan, slathered with cool raita, and served with a side of spicy potatoes, these turkey burgers open the door to an entirely new notion of burgers and fries.

More Indian food (including last year’s experiment with making Indian-inspired smoked ribs) can be found here.

Indian Turkey Burgers with Green Chutney Recipe

Indian Turkey Burgers

1 ¼  to 1 ½ pounds ground turkey

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon garam masala

pinch cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 large clove smashed and minced garlic

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Mix everything together until thoroughly combined, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to cook, heat an oiled grill (if you don’t have an outdoor grill, a stovetop grill pan will work just fine) to high heat.  With your hands slightly oiled to prevent sticking, gently form the turkey mixture into six patties.  Place the patties on the grill, then reduce the heat to medium high.  Cook until patties are completely cooked through, about 4 to 6 minutes on each side, depending on how thick your patties are.

Green Chutney

½ cup plain yogurt

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeno, seeds removed

juice of ½ a lemon

pinch of salt

In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, combine half of the yogurt with the mint, cilantro, jalapeno, lemon juice, and salt.  Pulse the ingredients together until they are relatively smooth and no large chunks of jalapeno remain.  Pour the mixture into a small bowl with the remaining yogurt, then stir everything together and taste for seasoning.  You may want to add a touch more salt or a small squeeze of additional lemon juice.

Serve turkey burgers in a piece of naan with sliced cucumbers, a dollop of raita and a spoonful of chutney.

Marinated Goat Cheese

23 Feb

Is there anything better than a plate of fresh bread and an assortment of cheeses?  Maybe a plate of fresh bread, an assortment of cheeses, and some spiced nuts, but, still, it tough to go wrong with the basic building blocks of cheese and bread.  It may not be the healthiest, most complete meal I could ever choose, but it is definitely a meal I find myself leaning towards whenever I am offered an opportunity to pick whatever I want to eat for a special occasion (or just, you know, for dinner on a Tuesday).

The good news about my love of bread and cheese is that spring and summer, however slowly, are surely working their way towards us.  Summer around here means a lot of time spent outdoors, whether it be riding bikes, playing baseball, or heading downtown for a waterfront picnic (a trip most likely taken on a bike…after playing a game of baseball).  Picnics, I believe I’ve mentioned before, are one of my most favorite things in the entire world.  In fact, second only to my love of picnics would be the act of choosing what to take on a picnic, a task I find endlessly pleasing and—dare I admit it—exciting.

At this point I feel as though I’ve got picnic packing down to a science.  Picnics are best eaten sans silverware, though we have been known to pack a vinegary potato salad or herby pasta dish from time to time.  For the most part, however, our picnics are strictly finger food affairs, and are comprised of nuts, fruits, sometimes small slivers of meats, and, of course, bread and cheese.  The bread is nearly always a baguette, but the cheese varies according to whatever we have on hand, or whatever I’ve spotted in the cheese case at the market and fallen in love with (because, yeah, I really really like cheese).  While last summer’s picnic cheeses seemed to lean more towards the category of being firm and sliceable, I have a feeling that the upcoming summer’s picnic cheese will be a strictly spreadable affair.  That is, the cheese in question will be this marinated goat cheese, because it is my most favorite cheese at the moment and I don’t see any signs of it budging from its position in the top spot.

Making this marinated cheese could not be simpler.  It also could not be more adaptable, and, as the seasons change, I imagine I will be changing up the formula quite a bit, just to see what happens.  My most recent version, the one seen here, involves toasted spices, a bit of heat, and a generous bunch of rosemary.  It is utterly fantastic, and I have spent the better part of a week spreading it on bread, folding it into eggs, and scooping it onto crackers.  I imagine it would also be great crumbled onto a tomato salad, and as the weather warms I plan on doing just that, as well as changing up the composition of the marinade to include some tarragon instead of rosemary, shallots in addition to the garlic, maybe a slip of lemon zest, and perhaps even some balsamic vinegar to accompany the olive oil.  Until the warm weather arrives, I’ll be experimenting with this recipe and preparing for as many picnics as I can.

Marinated Goat Cheese

This cheese marinates in olive oil while in the refrigerator, which causes the olive oil to harden as it cools.  It may look odd, but it poses no threat to the olive oil or the cheese.  To bring the oil back to room temperature, simply run the jar under hot water for 15 to 20 seconds.  The olive oil will almost immediately turn back into a liquid.

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns, preferably a mix of colors and flavors (I used green, black, and pink)

2 dried red chiles

8 ounces goat cheese

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

extra-virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat the fennel seeds, peppercorns, and dried chiles until they just begin to pop and their aroma begins to release.  Remove spices to a plate or bowl and set aside to cool.

Roll the goat cheese, 1 tablespoon at a time, into small balls.  Place balls of cheese in a jar that will allow room for all the cheese, plus flavorings (I used a 14-ounce jar and it was a nearly perfect, albeit slightly tight, fit).  To the jar, add the cooled peppercorns, fennel, and chiles.  Add the garlic cloves.  Very slightly twist the rosemary sprigs in your hands to bruise them and release some of their oils, then add them to the jar, along with the bay leaves.  Fill the jar with olive oil to cover everything.

Cover the jar tightly, then allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days before eating.  Cheese will keep for 1 week, in the refrigerator, tightly covered.

%d bloggers like this: