If you want to teach your children to eat well – teach them how to make a good sandwich. Monika Celly
We all love sandwich – be it a wrap, taco, stuffed pita or the ubiquitous jam sandwich. You can take it to school, work, park or a potluck – just pack and carry. By definition, a sandwich is a food item in which one or more kinds of ingredients can be placed in between two bread slices. These days, depending on your interests and food habits, you can pick and choose your bread and ingredients from a vast variety of options available, thereby taking your basic sandwich to the next level.
This post is everything you need to know about a vegetarian sandwich. Therefore, it is a long, detailed description covering almost all the aspects of a sandwich. Why vegetarian sandwich? Well, the food markets are flooded with the non vegetarian options and partial vegetarians like me are always on the lookout for a good veggie sandwich !
According to the popular legend, the sandwich was invented by John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, who, while gambling, told his butler to put some meat between two slices of bread so he could eat without interrupting the game and getting grease on the cards.
“Sandwich. [Said to be named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), who once spent twenty-four hours at the gaming-table without other refreshment than some slices of cold beef placed between slices of toast. This account of the origin of the word is given by Grosley [in a publication titled] Londres (1770). Grosley’s residence in London was in 1765 and he speaks of the word as having then lately come into use.].” —Oxford English Dictionary
“…[The sandwich] was not known in America until some time later. Eliza Leslie’s Directions for Cookery (1837) listed ham sandwiches as a supper dish, but it was not until much later in the century, when soft white bread loaves became a staple of the American diet, that the sandwich became extremely popular and serviceable. By the 1920s white loaf bread was referred to as “sandwich bread” or “sandwich loaf.” —Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 283)
Important components of a sandwich
A good sandwich doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. For any sandwich to qualify as a good one, first and foremost it should provide what every meal is supposed to – balanced nutrition. At the same time it should please your taste buds too, balance tastes, offer some texture and can be conveniently eaten. Trying different breads, fillings and sauces will take your sandwich experience to next level. Here is a list of essential components of any good sandwich:
- The Base / Foundation
A good sandwich always starts with a high quality bread. You do not have to bake your own bread. Check some local bakeries and you will be amazed at the options they offer. Or even the grocery stores will give you decent options to experiment with different breads. I usually do not start my day with bread but whenever I do, it is always brown bread. To make your sandwiches more interesting, try different breads like Whole Grain Bread, Pumpernickel Bread, Cracked Wheat, Rye Bread, Fruit and Nut Bread, Raised Flat Breads ( Focaccia,Ciabatta), Baguette and Cinnamon Bread.
- The Spread
These add flavor and also protects the bread slices from soaking up moisture from wet fillings. Here are some popular spreads: Butter, Cream Cheese, Mustard, Chutneys, Greek Yogurt( seasoned with herbs and spices), Pesto, Guacamole, Hummus, Babaganoush, Saba, Vinaigrettes, BBQ sauces, Mayonnaise, Hollandaise and Ketchup. Few tips: Butter should be soft enough or it will tear the bread slice if its too hard. Mayo adds more flavor than butter but butter protects bread better than mayo.
- The Centerpiece / Fillings
The fillings are the main body of any sandwich. Here is a list of some possible fillings. These can be used separately or in combination.
Cheese – sliced – Muenster, Cheddar, Pepper jack, Gouda, Brie
Crumbled Cheese – Blue cheese, Paneer
Potatoes, boiled and sliced, seasoned with salt and pepper
Grilled Tofu/ Tempeh
Sliced, pan seared / grilled – Mushrooms or Zuchhini or Egg Plant
Artichoke Hearts – steamed or grilled
Sliced boiled egg ( I consider egg as a part of vegetarian diet )
Sliced cucumber, tomatoes
Tofu patty ,
Nearly any vegetable used in salads can be used in sandwiches too.
This adds a final touch to your sandwiches. Pick any one or at the most two at a time. Here are my personal favorites:
Lettuce, Baby Argula, Cilantro leaves, Parsley, Pickled onions, Roasted red pepper strips, Alfalfa sprouts, Sunflower seeds, Dry spices like Pepper flakes, Dried garlic, Oregano, Basil, Dill and lemon pepper.
Tips for a great sandwich
Quality of Bread: : It’s the most important element for any sandwich. A sandwich made by bad bread cannot be saved even by the finest ingredients. A good quality bread adds variety, texture and taste to any sandwich. So, picking up a bread should be your first consideration.
Thickness of bread: For moist fillings, drier and dense breads should be used.
Moist toppings: Tomato and lettuce adds crunch to the sandwich but at the same time makes it soggy too. You can either add them just before serving or replace them with spinach, cucumber, zucchini or shredded cabbage.
Cheese: To prevent drying out of cheese, keep it covered until ready to use.
Sogginess: Spread butter, cream cheese or any other dressing all over the slice to seal against the wet toppings. Toasting the bread slices also prevents sogginess. And you can add the moist fillings in the end, just when you are ready to eat.
You must have observed above that a sandwich has an unlimited potential. It’s not so much about cooking, it’s more about assembling and creating. Put your time and love into the making of each sandwich and in return you have a piece of art that not only nourishes, but also makes you feel good.
Making it an art
A well made sandwich can be a piece of art if it has the right proportion of all the essential ingredients. An evenly cut bread slices, with all slices exactly the same size in all respects will also contribute a lot to create a masterpiece. Next, butter and fillings should be thinner at the edges so that they don’t squish out, but are still visible when served. Finally, sandwiches should immediately be arranged neatly on the serving dish, with a suitable garnish.
Sides to go with
To complete your sandwich meal, the right beverage will only enhance your experience. Iced tea, cold coffee, lemonade, fresh juice, masala chai are a few good options. I usually prefer a non fermented drink with sandwiches. You may also complete your meal with something sweet like a sponge cake and also some fruit.
Great sandwich needs great bread. Here are few ways to keep your bread fresh :
- Bread should be tightly wrapped in moisture proof wrapping. This prevents drying of bread and also guards against odors.
- Store bread at room temperature, away from heat. Refrigerated bread stales faster.
- If bread is a couple of days old, toasting revives its flavor.
Types of Sandwiches
Hot Sandwiches: Served for Breakfast / Dinner. Fillings are usually grilled or sautéed. A grilled sandwich is a good example.
Cold Sandwiches: Usually for lunch, these are the most popular sandwiches.
Tea sandwiches – Type of cold sandwiches, small and fancy made from light delicate ingredients. Most importantly, bread crusts are trimmed.
Techniques used in the making of a Sandwich
A perfect sandwich calls for a little planning which makes the whole process efficient and quick. Here is what you need to know before hand:
Clean area: Know the area where you will be preparing / assembling your sandwich. It could be your kitchen counter or table top.
Ingredients: Collect all the ingredients at one place.
Preparation – Mix fillings, prepare spreads, garnishes, slice veggies, cheese etc.
Assembly – Have everything ready ahead of time, so that you just have to assemble the ingredients together. Try to have all the ingredients within your hands reach.
Sanitation is important especially for cold sandwiches where you are using raw fillings. Refrigerate ingredients when not in use.
Ingredient Portion Control: You must exercise portion control while using the ingredients so as to give the perfect flavor and texture to your sandwich. Slicing of veggies, cheese or other miscellaneous ingredients can be done either by count or by weight.
Equipment: Though there is hardly any cooking involved in the making of a sandwich, it surely calls for some essential equipment. Here are some of them:
Hand tools like knives ( 1 serrated, 1 sharp chef’s knife), spatulas, cutting board, scoops for fillings, portion control scale for ingredients.
Hot equipment like broiler, panini grills, griddles, microwave, deep fryers.
Wrapping materials – wax paper, foil, wraps, moist towels.
Presentation / Plating Most sandwiches are cut before serving. Cutting has two advantages – makes eating easier and secondly, makes it more attractive. Make sure you display the cut edges to the outside – giving a glimpse of great fillings and attractive garnishes. You may also want to serve some fries, fresh fruit slices or juice to make it more attractive and filling.
Storage of Sandwiches
Hot sandwiches should ideally be consumed right away. Cold sandwiches – wrap them separately in plastic wrap, wax paper or sandwich bags. Put the wrapped sandwich in storage box and cover the box with moist towels. Make sure the towel should never touch the sandwiches. Refrigerate.
Science behind a perfect Sandwich
- Herve This, Father of Molecular Gastronomy explains that “The more you have to chew on in each bite, the more flavor you get with each mouthful, the less you need to eat to feel satisfied.” This is the reason why adding leafy greens up the chew count per mouthful, enhancing the munching experience.
- The researchers from the National Institute For Agricultural Research believes that sandwiches are more preferred when strong-smelling fillings like cheese, are placed at the bottom. The upper layers prevent strong odors from entering the nasal passage at the roof of the mouth.
- A thin layer of butter on the bread slices creates a hydrophobic barrier , thus preventing the soaking up of moisture from the wet filings. It is this technique that stops most boxed sandwiches sitting on supermarket shelves from going soggy.
- Our brain is designed to recognize contrast. That’s the reason why crispy, crusty breads with soft crumbs ( baguette and the likes ) are more frequently used at popular restaurants.
- Applying some heat releases some essential oils from the fillings, hence makes an ordinary sandwich extra flavorful.
Each one of us has designed some kind of sandwich. The minute we have bread, butter and rest of the ingredients, we get creative. Tell me if I’m wrong when I say we all have our own sandwich recipe. If you don’t have one, why not be a little more adventurous with your lunch tomorrow? The following links will give you some pointers : Grilled Paneer Sandwich Home made Tofu patty Bean patty
Did you know ?
- August is celebrated as the National Sandwich month. Summer time is the perfect time to experiment with sandwich making.
- November 3rd is celebrated as National sandwich day, which is the birthday of John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich, who is believed to have invented the first sandwich.