I know there are people out there who love a good sandwich, and whose imagination knows no bounds when it comes to dreaming up creative things to put into said sandwich. I'm not one of them. It might be a throw-back to all those school lunches I hated, but I confess to a certain amount of ambivalence towards sandwiches.
Should I happen to go into a cafe for lunch, the rest of what they have on offer would have to totally suck before I would choose a sandwich, and chances are, if the sandwich is the only appealing thing they have on offer, I would get up and leave. My one exception to dining out on a sandwich is the classic BLT - who doesn't love that? - however, my rule for that is it's room service food called for in the middle of the night, and must be accompanied by a big bowl of french fries.
Likewise, it would be a rare thing for me to make a sandwich at home. A slice of fresh bread or toast, with something delicious atop ... sure, but a sandwich ... no.
And there's an art to composing a sandwich, don't you think? Someone round here loves a sandwich, which should contain ham, mustard, beetroot, cheese, tomato, lettuce, boiled egg, and mayonnaise. Being asked to make said sandwich fills me with anxiety. For a start, should the ham be at the bottom or the top? In what order should the remaining ingredients be added? Then, how on earth do you get all that to stay together, without everything collapsing out the sides as soon as you put the top layer of bread on? It's all just fraught with difficulty.
I can, however, manage to pull off a "chip buttie", the obligatory accompaniment to fish and chips - take two slices of soft white bread, slather generously with butter, select half a dozen or so of the best, fattest chips, and envelop them between the two slices of bread. Ditto the "bacon sarnie" - as above, but replace the chips with two or three rashers of bacon straight from the pan.
I do have a couple of other sandwiches in my repertoire ... these gorgeous little hearts of lemon, cream cheese and basil (the perfect pass around with a glass of bubbles), and these Chocolate Panettone French Toast Sandwiches (just the thing for a decadent Sunday brunch) ...
... or these Orange Mango French Toast Sandwiches served with a Honey Roasted Strawberry Compote. Now, that's my kind of sandwich!
Which, at last, brings me to my point - if you want to get me to eat a sandwich, try soaking it in egg, frying it in butter, and calling it french toast. You can guarantee I won't be turning my nose up at that.
So, with out theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs of Sandwich Sensations, the hunt was on through my Donna Hay books to come up with a sandwich that was going to excite me. I did give more than passing thought to the idea of ice cream sandwiches, but in a time deprived week baking cookies and making ice cream was just not going to happen. Of course, I know that Donna wouldn't blink twice at the idea of using store-bought cookies and ice cream, but somehow that just didn't exactly seem blogworthy. Flicking through my books, I found all manner of steak sandwiches, burgers, baguettes filled with chicken or prosciutto, but that just wasn't what I was looking for. I was after french toast, but I felt more inclined towards something savoury, than the sweet direction my french toast usually takes. And then I found it ... on the Donna Hay website, this recipe for Fried Mozzarella & Olive Finger Sandwiches.
I began by making my own tapenade, using green olives and capers, rather than the store-bought black olive tapenade in the original recipe, and my tapenade recipe follows. Realistically, if you can't be bothered, a store-bought tapenade is fine, but in defence of making your own - this will make more than you need for a sandwich, the leftover will keep for ages and makes a great addition to an antipasto platter, and homemade works out at a fraction of the price of store-bought. Oh, and did I mention it really only takes about five minutes to make, using ingredients you probably already have on hand - you couldn't run out to the store and buy some in that time.
I hope you'll give this sandwich a try. The tart, briny, lemony, herbaceous flavours of the tapenade are a great foil to the creamy mozzarella, and there is no better way I know to encase such a filling than with soft-on-the-inside-crunchy-on-the-outside french toast with a parmesan crust. Yes, that's right ... parmesan crust ... didn't see that coming, did you?!
Green Olive Tapenade Recipe
A Couscous & Consciousness original
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
1 cup green olives
(do yourself a favour and buy stone-in olives - pitting them is not difficult and the flavour is superior)
1-1/2 tablespoon capers
1/4 of a preserved lemon (skin and flesh)
(or substitute grated zest of a lemon and lemon juice to taste)
1x clove garlic
handful flat leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
Remove pits from olives and put them into your food processor - if your processor has a small bowl attachment that will be ideal.
Add capers, preserved lemon, garlic, parsley and pepper to the food processor. Pulse a few times until everything is roughly chopped. Now, with the motor running, add olive oil in a thin stream until you achieve a coarse paste.
Taste. With the brininess of the olives and capers, as well as the salty preserved lemon, it is unlikely you will want to add any salt. However, if you've used fresh lemon instead, you may feel the need to add a tiny bit of salt.
Store in the refrigerator. Will keep at least a couple of weeks.
Green Olive Tapenade &
Mozzarella French Toast Sandwiches Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Donna Hay
For one sandwich
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
2x slices wholemeal sourdough bread
1 tablespoon green olive tapenade (see recipe above, or store-bought)
3x slices of mozzarella
2 tablespoons milk
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon butter
Spread one slice of bread with the tapenade, top with the mozzarella, and then the remaining slice of bread. Cut sandwich into three even-sized pieces.
In a shallow dish, whisk together the egg, milk, salt and pepper. Spread the Parmesan out on a plate.
Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan set over medium heat.
Meanwhile, dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture, leaving them a good minute on each side to soak up all the egg mixture.
Remove sandwiches from the egg mixture and press them into the Parmesan, coating both sides.
Transfer sandwiches to the hot frying pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides and the mozzarella is melting and gooey.
If you would like to get to know Donna Hay a little better, and to see all the Sandwich Sensations my friends have come up with, then visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.
I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads, Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays hosted by my special friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollam.