What’s in Your Lunchbox?

September 8, 2011

The beloved sandwich. It’s more than two slices of bread with meat, cheese or some other filling between them.

Did you know… the sandwich that we know and love was Initially perceived as food men shared while gaming and drinking at night. It slowly began appearing in polite society as a late-night meal among the aristocracy.

Did you know… the sandwich’s popularity increased dramatically during the 19th century in Spain and England, when the rise of an industrial society and the working classes made fast, portable, and inexpensive meals essential.

Did you know… In the United States, the sandwich was first promoted as an elaborate meal at supper. By the early 20th century, as bread became a staple of the American diet, the sandwich became a popular, quick meal.

(“Tasty” insights courtesy of Wikipedia)

A court in Boston, Massachusetts ruled that “sandwich” includes at least two slices of bread. This court found that the term “sandwich” is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos and quesadillas. (The issue stemmed from the question of whether a restaurant that sold burritos could move into a shopping center where another restaurant had a no-compete clause in its lease prohibiting other “sandwich” shops).

Boston Court rulings aside, there are loads (school bus loads) of ways to transform the beloved, humble sandwich, including replacing the bread with remarkable alternatives like fried eggplant.

If you like thinking outside the box (lunchbox, that is!), follow New Mexico farmer Matt Romero’s lead with his recipe for an eggplant sandwich that first appeared in Real Simple magazine, July 2010.

I’ve made it several times using garden fresh eggplant and heirloom tomatoes – it’s delectable! Knife and fork are optional – it has just enough crispness that you can hold it in your hand.

Matt’s Eggplant Sandwich

Ingredients

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 medium eggplant (1 to 1 ½ pounds – cut into eight ½-inch-thick rounds)
½ cup canola oil
Kosher salt
4 leaves romaine lettuce, torn in half
2 medium beefsteak tomatoes (or other garden fresh tomatoes), sliced
½ cup fresh basil leaves
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Directions

Place the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs in separate shallow bowls. Dip the eggplant slices in the flour, then in the eggs (letting any excess drip off), and finally in the breadcrumbs, pressing gently to help them adhere.

Heat half the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook half the eggplant until golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side; transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining oil and eggplant. Sprinkle the hot eggplant with ½ teaspoon salt.

Layer the eggplant, lettuce, tomatoes, basil and goat cheese to form 4 sandwiches with the eggplant on the top and bottom of each stack.

Hungry for more sandwich ideas? Tune into Food Network Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET to watch sandwich guru Jeff Mauro aim to prove that any meal tastes better between two slices of bread (or on a biscuit, or in a pita, or …) He’s fresh off his win on Food Network Star – this Sandwich King has my vote!

What kind of sandwich fills your lunchbox?  Are you a sandwich purist or do you like to get creative with alternative “handles”:  bagels, lettuce, flatbread…?  Share your favorite best thing since sliced bread or your best thing between two slices of bread here …

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