I had a great time answering your questions on the Washington Post livechat last week. One major topic of livechat conversation was - how to get out of the brown bag lunch rut? I love salads and leftovers for lunch. And we’ll get to those in a future post. But let’s start with the time-honored brown bag staple, the sandwich. Here are my 3 favorite strategies for finding new ways out of the “same old, same old” sandwich rut. No matter what type of sandwich you’re used to bringing, these strategies can help you to create new sandwiches, variations on your well-loved theme sandwich and maybe even introduce you to a new ingredient or food group.
- Try a different type of bread
- Add a new ingredient
- Use a new condiment
I love almost all types of bread. Each type lends itself to a different take on the same sandwich ingredients. If you’re a sliced bread person, try a bagel, pita or wrap. If you tend to use white bread, try whole wheat, semolina (a delicious type of wheat that makes a rather yellow bread, often topped with sesame seeds), rye or multi-grain. Hint - to keep the bread from getting soggy, bring the sandwich fixings separately and take 2 minutes to construct the sandwich minutes before you'll eat it - or at least pack separately any tomato, cucumber or other ingredient that tends to get watery.
Add a new ingredient
Whether you are a vegetarian or a meat-eater, there are many ways to brighten up your sandwiches with new ingredients. If you’re a tuna salad person, consider adding chopped apple and walnuts to the tuna instead of celery and/or carrots. I like mashed white beans (cannellini) in my vegetable sandwiches, or even with white meat like sliced chicken or turkey. If you normally use fresh lettuce and or tomato on your sandwiches, try roasted vegetables. If you eat dairy, cheese is a great main ingredient, or add-on. You can up the sandwich ante considerably with pepper jack (soft and relatively tasteless Monterey Jack cheese spiced up with hot pepper), goat’s milk brie, (a brie that has a lovely edge because it’s made with goat’s milk, now available in some mainstream grocery stores like Safeway and Trader Joe’s), and various types of sharp cheddar or provolone. If you’re a vegetarian, how about hummus, cucumber and tomato on pita with a couple of black olives (or sliced olives) for good measure?
Use a new condiment
I could be crowned queen if one’s royal status depended on the number of condiments in the refrigerator at any given moment. If you don’t have the money to splurge on new clothes or furniture, you still probably have enough to buy a fabulous jar of chutney or salsa, or a new type of mustard. If you like roast beef sandwiches, try one with a spread of sour cream mixed with white horseradish. You can also use the sun-dried tomato and basil spread as a condiment. Sometimes, the best condiment choice is the most unexpected one. You may find excellent and interesting condiments at your local farmers' market, in amongst the jams and jellies.
There are no end to the sandwich variations. So I’ll end with one of my favorite comfort foods. If you like peanut butter, how about peanut butter and sliced banana on good bread, with honey and maybe a few raisins or dried cranberries?
Go forth and experiment. And come back to tell us about the sandwich roads you find and how you like them.