The Best Deal in Town!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cooking School: Sandwich Workshop

Cooking School:  Sandwich Workshop!

Cross this off the bucket list:  teaching a cooking class.  The class was held at our Library and was supposed to run from 2 – 3, but since we were still merrily cooking away and eating at 4, the Children’s Department wanted to know how long it would take for us to clean up?  (Longer than the 5 minutes I said, but we were up and out before the children’s program at .)  I had such a good time, cooking! and with a captive audience!, that we went over our allotted time.

The conceit of the class was this:  a four-course meal, salad, soup, main course and dessert, all interpreted in sandwiches. Famed chef and cookbook author Tom Colicchio provided the recipe basics from his restaurant and book ‘wichcraft, as well as all the photos. 

Having had a little car trouble on the way in, I was just arriving with tons of supplies when 3 people walked in to the class room 15 minutes early.  Since I’m used to cooking at my kitchen island, which is kind of like a stage, I wasn’t flustered, just a little harried.  I started out talking a mile a minute which washing my hands, spreading out ingredients and chopping celery.  I proceeded to build my first sandwich for the class.

It was a Goat Cheese, Celery, Avocado, Watercress and Lemon Vinaigrette with Walnut Pesto on Whole Grain Bread sandwich, which comprised the ‘salad’ course.  I had already prepared the lemon vinaigrette and walnut pesto at home, so I simply had to  dress the celery and watercress with the vinaigrette, slice the avocado,  and put together the sandwich.  Not technically challenging, but still harder to be able to talk about helpful hints while continuing the prep at the same time than if I were alone in my kitchen concentrating.  I babbled on trying to squeeze in lots of helpful hints all the while putting together the sandwiches.

This sandwich was pungent with the goat cheese, earthy with the walnuts and whole grain bread, and brightened by the crunch of the lemon spiked greens:  a great way to open up the class’ taste buds, especially for one of the attendees who had never had goat cheese before.  While goat cheese is not a personal favorite of mine, I do like it very much when it is presented in concert with other harmonizing ingredients, such as this sandwich.  And so did the class.  Yay!  They liked it. (Shades of Sally Field!)

Gaining confidence, I went on to an easier preparation: the Gruyere and Caramelized Onion Panini on Seeded Russian Rye, which was a stand in for French onion soup.  The Gruyere (lovely, nutty real Switzerland Swiss cheese) I sliced very thinly and put on rye bread, topped it with the prepared at home slow cooked smoky-sweet caramelized onions (which I passed around for the class to take in that great fragrance), and topped it with more thin slices of Gruyere and another slice of rye. This was then cooked in a panini press until darkly toasted, with the cheese oozing out:  rich, flavorful and satisfying.   

At this point, luckily my coworkers, Roe Gohd, and Viji Savrithi, had all been pitching in and giving me a hand, so I was in good shape with them microwaving the onions, grilling panini, and passing out napkins, water and sandwich samples.

The Gruyere was the one sandwich I had not tried at home, because I knew it would be delicious – with all those good ingredients, how could it not be?  But the seeded Russian rye bread (Pechter’s, from Wegmans) added that little bit of je ne sais quoi, so when I did taste it, I literally stopped in my tracks because it was so delicious. 

As people were eating and exclaiming, I went on to the main event:  a mix of Marinated Chickpeas, Roasted Red Peppers, Nicoise Olives, and Lemon Confit on Country White Bread.  I had cooked the chickpeas at home from scratch, and then prepared half of them in the marinade and half without, intending to demonstrate all the prep in front of the class.  Alas, time was running short, so I gratefully used the already marinated chickpeas, threw that in the food processor, and spread it on country bread - toasted on one side only! (Soft side OUT, so as not to scratch the roof of your mouth, but crispy on the inside so the sandwich doesn’t get soggy.)  

To the sandwich, I then added strips of red pepper that I had roasted on the grill at home, gave some Nicoise olives a quick chop, and layered on some confit lemon slices, a few grinds of black pepper, and some flat leaf parsely leaves..

The lemon confit I had started three days earlier, and I demo-ed how to the slice the lemons super thinly, rind and all.  You then layer the slices with salt, sugar, garlic,  and shallot, and let them sit in the fridge in a jar, turning over occasionally to cure all the slices.  After three days, you drain them, and cover with olive oil.  Sunshine in a jar.

Lemon Confit

3 lemons
1 large shallot, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon and 1 teaspoon sugar

About 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Put the lemons in a saucepan of boiling water to cover for 20 seconds.  Drain and dry.  Slice off one end only.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Slice as thinly as possible, discarding seeds and the remaining end. 

Mix all remaining ingredients except the olive oil with the lemon slices.  Put into a jar.  Turn once a day for 3 days to cure all the lemon slices.  Drain in a colander for 15 minutes.  Return to the jar, and barely cover with olive oil. 

Yield:  About 1 cup, keeps in the refrigerator at least one month.

(This makes an inspired addition to not only the chickpea sandwich, but is amazing on a sandwich with imported Italian tuna, capers, Nicoise olives and marinated fennel.  Also try with sliced roasted leg of lamb, bitter greens, and black olive mayonnaise.)

The completed Chickpea Sandwich was a multi-flavored affair with a balanced mix of garlicky, creamy chickpeas, the sweetness of the red peppers, the meatiness of olives all accented beautifully by the brightness of the lemon confit:  “tastes like the Mediterranean,”  was one admiring comment.  This was the favorite of the tasters.

For dessert, I made ‘Cannoli’ Bruschetta, this recipe one of my own creation: topped with ricotta cheese, orange marmalade, bittersweet chocolate and pistachios.  (“Very elegant – and delicious”, according to my son-in-law, when I reprised the class at home.) And for good measure, an Almond Bruschetta, this one spread with almond paste, almonds and showered with confectioner’s sugar, inspired by a recipe I found on the Food Network.

Now I was really rushing, because the Children’s librarians were trying to set up for the next event.  But these bruschetta are no-brainers- requiring no recipe, really, so I could rush and prepare at the same time.  Mission accomplished:  a four course meal all composed of sandwiches.

Either bruscetta would be an outstanding addition to brunch alongside a frittata or any kind of omelette.  And they are far easier to make than any baked goods, and  benefit from being done at the last minute because they are especially good served warm, immediately after preparation.

‘Cannoli’ Bruschetta

baguette, cut into ½ inch thick slices
ricotta cheese
good orange marmalade (recommended:  Tiptree or Dundee brand imported from England)
bittersweet chocolate, chopped, OR bittersweet mini chocolate chips
pistachios, chopped

Toast or grill the baguette.  Spread each slice with about 1 – 2 Tablespoons ricotta. Top with 1 Tablespoon marmalade.  Sprinkle on the chopped chocolate and pistachios to taste.

Almond Bruschetta

baguette, cut into ½ inch thick slices
almond paste
sliced almonds or slivered almonds
confectioner’s sugar

Toast or grill the baguette.  Mash up the almond paste a little to make it softer, then spread a Tablespoon on each baguette slice.  Top with some almonds, and sprinkle generously with confectioner’s sugar.

So that was my take on sandwiches – at the end of the class, I was left with a huge mess, a ton of satisfaction from all the positive comments I got, and a wish to do it all again soon. 

As Roe and one of the class attendees – Rose - so generously helped with the clean-up, we passed out the last of the samples and hurried to put away all the detritus from the class while the Children’s Department began their set-up. 

I left the class humming this melody from a long ago favorite children’s song of my daughter Kati:

Sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine,
I like sandwiches I eat them all the time,
I eat them for my supper,
And I eat them for my lunch,
If I had a hundred sandwiches,
I’d eat them all at once!

Diane Whitman
Reference Librarian
Now , “Cooking Teacher”

1 comment:

Kate said...