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GOOD COOKING

It's Tiny Sandwich Season

Big sandwiches are so three weeks ago.

April 04, 2001|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

At my house, a sure sign of spring is the inviting appearance of small, savory sandwiches and wraps flavored with fresh herbs.

I like to serve them as appetizers before a barbecue or informal dinner, as a partner with salads or light soups or arranged in a basket as the bread option on a buffet. These versatile sandwiches, best done ahead, are favorites for a small group or a crowd.

Small size is the key. No one seems to like the excessive sandwiches of yesteryear. Often, a small bite or two suffices.

Sicilian Hero Slices

Active Work Time: 25 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 1/2 hours

2 red bell peppers

1 (24-inch-long) thin baguette with soft crust, cut lengthwise, 1 long side left attached

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon tapenade, olivada (black olive paste) or chopped oil-cured olives

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

6 thin slices mortadella

9 thin slices Genoa salami

9 thin slices provolone

6 large, firm cherry tomatoes, sliced paper-thin

8 large basil leaves

Sprigs fresh basil, for garnish

Place a rack 3 inches from the heat source; turn on the broiler. Line a baking pan with foil. Cut off both ends of the peppers. Stand the peppers on a board and cut off the sides into 4 slabs. Arrange them on the prepared pan, skin side up. Broil until the skin is blackened, 5 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven. Use the foil lining to wrap the peppers so they steam. Let them rest about 10 minutes, then slip off their skins. (The peppers can be refrigerated up to 3 days, or frozen up to 1 month. To freeze, put each pepper in small, airtight plastic bag.)

Trim the ends off the baguette. Rub a moistened paper towel over the crust to soften. Open the baguette and pull out the soft bread, leaving a 1/4-inch margin. Combine the mayonnaise, olive paste, vinegar and mustard in a small dish. Spread it evenly on the cut sides of the bread.

Cut the bell peppers, meats and cheese to fit the bread with no overhang. First, layer the red peppers in a single layer, then evenly layer the meats, cheese, tomatoes and basil leaves. Close the bread. Press gently with your hands. Cut the loaf in 3 equal portions. Wrap each airtight in plastic; twist the ends. Refrigerate 2 to 6 hours.

Unwrap the portions. Insert a toothpick into each, if needed, to keep the bread together. Cut each as desired (6 thin or 3 thick pieces). Remove the toothpicks. Arrange the sandwiches on a platter; garnish with basil sprigs.

6 supper servings, 12 appetizer servings. Each of 12 servings: 175 calories; 473 mg sodium; 11 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 1.51 grams fiber.

Sweet Onion and Parsley Sandwiches

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus 2 hours chilling * Vegetarian

A good variation is sliced green olives with pimentos in place of the sweet onion.

8 thin slices white or 7-grain bread, crusts trimmed

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons minced parsley

1/2 sweet onion, peeled

Freshly ground pepper

Parsley sprigs, for garnish

Place the bread slices in a single layer on work surface. Combine the mayonnaise and parsley in a small dish. Spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture on each slice. Pull a sharp swivel-blade vegetable peeler across the onion to make paper-thin slices. Arrange the onion in a single layer on 4 slices. Sprinkle generously with pepper. Close the sandwiches. Wrap each airtight in plastic. Refrigerate from 2 to 6 hours.

To serve, unwrap the sandwiches, then cut crosswise into 4 triangles. Arrange them on a platter; garnish with parsley sprigs.

4 to 6 lunch servings, 8 hors d'oeuvre servings. Each of 8 servings: 121 calories; 243 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.16 grams fiber.

Chunky Guacamole and Shrimp Wraps

Active Work Time and Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes, plus 2 hours chilling

Serve as appetizers or with soup.

1 ripe avocado, halved, pit removed

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 teaspoons minced onion

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 (7-inch) flour tortillas

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro

12 cooked medium shrimp, split lengthwise, veins removed

8 large, firm cherry tomatoes, sliced paper-thin

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Coarsely mash the avocado in a bowl with a fork. Stir in the mayonnaise, onion, lime juice and jalapeno, then salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the avocado mixture on the tortillas to the edges, about 2 tablespoons on each. Scatter about 12 cilantro leaves on each. Place 6 shrimp halves across the top 1/4 of the tortilla. Place the sliced tomatoes over the shrimp, dividing evenly. Start with the shrimp end and roll up tightly. Wrap airtight in plastic; twist ends. Refrigerate 2 to 6 hours.

Cut each in half (to accompany soup) or in 4 pieces (as hors d'oeuvre). Arrange on a platter; garnish with cilantro.

4 to 6 servings with soup, 6 to 8 hors d'oeuvre servings. Each of 8 servings: 160 calories; 348 mg sodium; 166 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 20 grams protein; 1.57 grams fiber.

*

Mandel is a cookbook author.

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