Tuesday, February 24, 2009

bbe: a sandwich place

i'm not the kind of girl
who likes roast beef or ham, or really, 
even turkey.
i think roasted red peppers are
just ok and i'm so-so on 
grilled chicken. 
mayonnaise, in excess,
or simply spread on the bread,
freaks me out.
i am, as you can imagine,
a ton of fun in a deli.

i do, however, love the idea 
of lunch and the concept of a really
good sandwich, like ones that involve
large grilled shrimp,
perfectly ripe slices of avocado
or crumbled creamy salty feta.

in high school, i imagined myself
opening a coffee shop. 
one that was 
eclectic and homey with 
large overstuffed armchairs, 
scattered amongst 
scuffed wooden straight backs 
and wicker seats that boasted 
layers of chipped paint.
there would be really huge non-matching mugs 
for coffee and tea - 
perfect for the customers who came 
in the morning
and never left,
too busy reading a book 
or chatting with a friend.

then, a couple weeks into college,
my roommate and i walked into deja brew
it was exactly what i imagined for my shop,
and quirky 
and safe,
quiet, with an easy-going atmosphere.
it was...
for four years, i loved this place, with 
its striped and polka dot mugs,
that i sipped from while
eating lunch with friends,
during creative writing classes (the professor's choice!),
project meetings and 
for those times that i just needed
to be alone.

now, i still imagine that store-front:
the lines a little cleaner,
the furniture with slight connection,
but the quiet quirkiness, the same.
oh, and for years, i've pictured it,
no longer a coffee shop, but instead 
a sandwich place.

because i have to believe that there
are others 
who are not crazy about
ham or roast beef, 
and who really crave sandwiches
that are not easy to find,
that are culinary achievements
in their own right 
(ok, maybe that last part is a bit
of a reach).
but, you get the point.
fancy, yet unpretentious,
amazingly delectable
and creative sandwiches.
that's what bbe -
named for brooke, blair and erin, 
me and my sisters -
would be about.

so, when faced with a fresh jar
unexplainable lack of interest in tagines,
(at least for now, anyway),
i knew that a sandwich was 
in the works.

in my preserved lemon research,
i found a few items 
involving tuna
and since i haven't had 
a tuna sandwich
in a very long time, 
it sounded perfect.
i remembered a recipe that i once saw involving
tuna and an olive spread 
and instantly craved the combination.
sharp finely chopped red onions,
briny capers and a 
country loaf of whole wheat sourdough 
rounded out the deal.

i was a little nervous - would the lemons
pack such a flavorful punch
that everything else would be overshadowed?
would they blend in, 
never to be heard from again?
would the whole thing be boring? 
too salty?
no, no, no and no.

rustic at its best, 
slightly imperfect, 
not so gorgeous
and bursting with 
interesting ingredients,
this is definitely one of those
recipes in which the 
sum is greater than its parts.
sure the kalamata-based spread is good,
really good, actually,
and the tuna mixture serves its purpose -
it's blended with juice from a non-preserved
lemon to ensure that 
the flavor is bright
and then drizzled with 
red wine vinegar for 
extra acidity, 
a trick i learned when working
at a pizzeria many years ago.
and the toasted slices 
of thick-cut bread,
are ok.
at best, someone might call them common -
it's fine, i can take it.
but when layered together,
and the lemony tuna 
meets garlicky roughly pureed olives
on slightly crunchy bread,
the results, i think, are bbe-worthy.

tuna with preserved lemons and olive spread on sourdough 
tapenade or olive spread is readily available in local stores. i have a great recipe that i will share soon, but if you are unable to find a container and you're in the market for something to spread on your bread, toss a large handful of pitted kalamata olives in a mini food processor with a spoonful of mustard, a clove or two of garlic, a few dashes of cayenne pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil. as for the mayonnaise - i've mentioned, it's not my favorite. so i've only used enough to make sure that the ingredients are bound together and creamy - feel free to go up and down depending on your level of love for the condiment. and, if this sandwich is missing something, i think it's greens - watercress, i believe would be unforgettable - in between the tuna and the top layer of bread. if you have any laying around, toss them on, too.

this recipe makes about two large sandwiches, with some tuna left over to add to a green salad the next day. or, you can build them on regular toasted sandwich bread - you'll get at least enough for four this way. 

4 slices bread cut from center of whole wheat sourdough loaf OR 8 slices bread from regular loaf
2 Tbs. finely chopped red onion
3 wedges preserved meyer lemon, pulp scraped from rind, both chopped
1 Tbs. salt-packed capers, rinsed, drained and dried
1/4 cup low-fat mayo
1/2 large non-preserved lemon, juiced
2 cans (6 oz. each) albacore tuna in spring water, drained well
1/3 cup olive spread
red wine vinegar

lightly toast bread. meanwhile, in bowl, combine red onion, meyer lemon rind, capers and mayo; stir in chopped pulp and lemon juice. add tuna; stir just until combined. season with freshly cracked black pepper.

place bread on work surface; divide olive spread among bread slices. divide tuna mixture. drizzle with red wine vinegar to taste (you can be liberal with the vinegar, within reason, here). top with remaining slices of bread; halve sandwiches.

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