Wednesday, March 23, 2011

So Bunderful

Sadly for me, there hasn't been so much time in the kitchen recently.  There seems to be less and less nights I have at home, which means I've been cooking fewer dinners at night and not spending the time to put breakfasts and lunches together for the next day.  When we are eating at home, it's usually something that can be made and eaten fast.  Not exactly the Eats of Eden way, but life will eventually regain its equilibrium.  Right now I'm working toward the future, and the future is needy. 

I've noticed that I have been eating quite a few meals between buns lately.  As the cheesy legend goes, Earl Sandwich started the portable culinary revolution while playing poker, and requesting a meal of meat and cheese between bread slices so he could keep playing.  Unlikely as it is to be true, it does provide a great metaphor for busy people's favorite meal:  put everything between the buns, I've gotta run.

In honor of Grad School's Top Ramen, I wanted to spend a moment honoring some of the best incarnations of the sandwich I've had recently. 

First off, I have to show Starbucks how it's done.  When one orders a veggie breakfast sandwich, they're expecting two simple things:  some kind of egg product and some kind of veggies.  Starbucks spent millions of development dollars to figure out half of this equation, but Noah's Bagels has it 100% right.  Their Asparagus and Mushroom Egg White Sandwich is served on a Bagel Thin, the secret to enjoying sandwich sensations while on a diet.  Sure, I'd love some thick slab of ciabatta or focaccia bread, but the calories and carbs are killer.  You get the taste and texture compromise.  So you get the sandwich back to your desk (well, that's where I get it back to), and open it up.  VEGETABLES EVERYWHERE!!!  And not just blah vegetables for vegetable's sake.  Crispy, toothsome pieces of asparagus and tender mushrooms.  It's all married with this delicious chipotle sauce that is smoky and wonderful.  I try to enjoy it, but I inhale it so fast I end up searching through piles of papers on my desk to try and find where I set it down last. 

If you're not watching it, try Noah's Santa Fe Egg Wrap.  That was my all-time favorite breakfast treat in the "before times."  It's basically a burrito (ah tortillas, the exotic sandwich) with spicy turkey sausage, chiles, roasted potatoes, and their jalapeno cream cheese that doubles as their best bagel spread.  It's what Almanzo Wilder would eat if Little House on the Prairie had a Noah's down the road.

When we were at Costco a couple weeks ago, Matt grabbed a box of Sabatino chicken patties from the "not frozen stuff but you can freeze it if you don't want to eat 12 of these today" section (between the Meat department and Produce That Will Inevitably Rot In Your Fridge.... you know what I'm talking about, right?).  Faced with having to make dinner last night while I was getting home late, he grabbed these hidden gems.  Neither of us had any idea what an unbelievable find we'd stumbled on.  Each chicken patty is blended with spinach and aged white cheddar cheese, which collects in these little cheese wells and oozes out every couple bites.  It's unlike any chicken sandwich I've ever had before.  It basically blends the best features of veggie burgers (texture, herbs, freshness) with the wonders of chicken.  And unlike some chicken/turkey burgers, these aren't a smidge dry. 

"We need more of these," I said as I oohed all over my patty on Bagel Thin with feta cheese, lettuce and red onion.  It's on my list; put it on yours, too!  They're packed in vacu-packs of 4, so you can take half of them right out of the freezer and defrost to separate. 

I had a leftover patty, which I brought to work today and pulled apart to dress up some "eh" leftover pasta I had from a carb craving yesterday.  Styrafoam sensations!  These would taste so good sliced up and rolled into a wrap with some veggies and hummus, or spinach-artichoke dip, or just whatever you can scrape out of the fridge. 

When Matt was retrieving the patties out of the freezer last night, he also found another Costco treasure:  a barbecue-ready tri-tip steak.  "What should we do with this?"  he asked.  The possibilities were daunting:  served simply with baked potatoes and green beans, chopped up and used in quesadillas, even made into an Asian-style steak salad.  Or... some really amazing sandwiches.  Matt opened up the garage to barbecue the steak just a step from a springtime downpour, while I prepped the ingredients I'd picked up at Trader Joe's:  wheat baguette for Matt, soft and delicious pita bread for me, piquant arugula, slightly sweet peppadew peppers and homemade tzatziki with crumbled feta. 

When the steak was barbecued through and rested, I sliced thinly and added to our awaiting breads to make a steak baguette sandwich I wish I had a cafe to sell it in, and a gyro-style sandwich for me.  I served mine alongside a roasted vegetable and couscous pilaf, and Matt has elbow pasta et fromage a la Kraft.  After making an entire long baguette's worth of sandwich and two gyros (leftovers for lunch tomorrow), there was still a nice hunk of steak left to make those stupendous steak quesadillas.  Not too bad for about $15 worth of steak.  Dinner was cleaned up and dishes were done just minutes after were were finished chowing down on our fast and fantastic dinner. 

Sandwiches are the even simpler, summertime-ish version of the hearty winter one-pot meal.  Try mixing up your meats and breads, and it'll take a while before you get too bored with this easy meal solution.  It's not the world's most original idea, but I think Earl Sandwich was indeed on to the essence of a bustling, hungry universe.

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