A grand plan for great sandwiches

My entire philosophy of sandwich construction can be stated in one simple thought: No matter what edibles you've got lurking in the kitchen, they're only moments away from becoming a sandwich of some sort. And with the summer bounty just steps away in your backyard or the nearest farmers market, the options become even more grand and enticing.

Starting with a base of carbohydrate — loosely defined as bread, but more realistically incorporating anything from cracker to croissant to tortilla — the garden yields dozens of possibilities in each season. From vine-ripened tomatoes, cucumbers and golden bell peppers to tender sheets of lettuce, fragrant herbs and exotic eggplant, sandwiches from your garden are healthy and inspirational answers to the question: "What's for dinner?"

The creations first take hold on my imaginary palate, where the flavors, textures and colors of the harvest unite. Then, it's merely a matter of fine-tuning the process back in the kitchen, adding appropriate condiments, cheeses or whatever it takes to round out the offering.

This is what makes the sandwich the perfect summer meal — its adaptability, spontaneity and, in many cases, portability. And I've never underestimated the respectability factor of the sandwich, either. That is, the freedom to legally eat with your fingers and not get sent to your room!

Of course, there are some basic guidelines that encourage successful pairings:

  • Great sandwiches begin with excellent bread, such as nutty whole-grain, rich challah or brioche, flaky croissants, crusty French or dark, dense rye. And there are so many talented bakers in our own communities these days that finding these artisan breads shouldn't be a challenge.
  • Appropriate pairings are essential. Bold-flavored and juicy fillings stand up to bold, coarse-grained and crusty breads and condiments. Similarly, delicate ingredients are more appreciated on softer, more refined breads.
  • Keep it manageable. If opting for focaccia, brioche or any type of specialty bun, it should never be so thick, or the crust so hard, as to render the sandwich unconquerable.
  • Lightly toasting the bread often can add a perfect, yet subtle, depth of flavor, transforming a good sandwich into a truly memorable one. Toasting also seems to forestall sogginess, so when working with particularly moist fillings, it's a good idea to brown at least the inner side of each slice.
  • If preparing sandwiches for a picnic, "wet" fillings should be spooned into a thermos and assembled just before serving.
  • Great breads aren't cheap. So after building your sandwiches, freeze the loaves' leftovers or turn them into croutons, crostini or bruschetta to serve with soup, salads and appetizers.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.