Continuing on my carnivorous journey this week, while the pescetarian (emphasis on the pesky) wife is away, I present to you one of my favorite midday snacks that is incredibly simple and relatively inexpensive depending on whether or not you quality ingredients are available nearby.
Despite being about the size of a truck stop market, the Sainsbury’s local just down the highroad often has a lot of great ingredients for relatively cheap prices. If you have the option to buy the meats freshly sliced or the bread from a great baker, by all means go right ahead, but I’ve been more than impressed with the quality and don’t want to travel halfway around the city to get “the best” ingredients ever. Again, this is a simple mid-day snack.
Anyway, the market carries these great little packs of freshly sliced Italian cured meats with two different types of Sopressata (a type of salami) and Parma ham for around £2. It’s about 6 slices each of the Sopressatas and about 4 slices of the Parma ham. They also sell freshly baked, sandwich sized italian bread for about 45 p that are the perfect size for the sandwich.
Italian bread, cured meats (Sopressata, Copa, Prosciutto, Parma etc…; choose what you like), Salad greens (arugula or mesclun greens work nice), a sharp Italian cheese (I used Parmesan, but Provolone or Pecorino are also nice options), a good Balsamic Vinegar (three leaf or better), extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper
- Slice the bread almost in half, leaving on side together as a ‘hinge’.
- Drizzle a good amount of olive oil and balsamic on each side and season with salt and pepper.
- Rather than dress the greens directly, I place them on the bread next and squeeze the loaf together, letting the greens take on any excess oil, vinegar and seasoning.
- I then layer the meat, folding them so they don’t just lay flat on the bread, this will help to give the sandwich a little more substance and depth of flavor.
- If using Parmesan or Pecorino cut nice thick slices and layer on the other side of the bread. For Provolone, fold the slices as you do the meats.
- If you’re not going to eat the sandwich right away, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap which will actually help all the flavors meld together and is even better that eating it right after it’s been made. I call this the Frank Sinatra method, because he used to have his Italian combo flown to him from Atlantic City to Vegas this way.
Alternatives and Options:
- For a vegetarian option you can omit the meats and use sliced, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers and or tomatoes (sun-dried, roasted or fresh sliced when in season), feel free to add any of these to the cured meat sandwich as well, but remember that sometimes less is more.
- If using roasted red peppers, please for the love of all that is good in the world DO NOT use canned or jarred. They are inevitably stored in citric acid which gives them an awful flavor. If you are not going to make them yourself*, find a market that makes them and sells them un-preserved.
- Sliced hot cherry peppers in a jar though are really good, especially if you can find B&G. I always try to keep a jar in the house. The combo of the vinegar and the spiciness of the peppers adds a great spike of flavor to any sandwich.
*Roasted Red Peppers- This is really pretty easy, especially if you have a gas stove and a good pair of metal tongs. Basically you just want to blister and char the skin of the pepper. You can do this either directly on the flame from your burner, charring all sides evenly you actually want the skin to turn black on all sides. This can also be done in an oven or under a broiler at high heat, or the best method would be over a grill. Make sure to keep the peppers whole while doing it as well. Once the peppers are charred all the way around place them in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. It will steam up and the wrap will probably bubble up, but leave the peppers in there for a good 20-30 minutes. At that point they should still be warm, but not so hot that you can’t handle them. The steam from the bowl should make the skins peel off effortlessly by rubbing or peeling it with your fingers or a clean towel. Discard the stem and seeds from the pieces of pepper and slice in long strips. They are delicious just like that, but if you’d like them to pack a little more punch, you can drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper and oregano (fresh is best, but dried actually works great also). If you love garlic, it doesn’t hurt to add a little fresh minced garlic to the mix, but be careful that you don’t over power the delicately flavored peppers.