By: Mark Bittman; Photographs by: Kang Kim
From the molten yolk and bacon crunch of a hand-held breakfast, to the gooey charm of grilled cheese for lunch, nothing matches the simple pleasures of well-made sandwiches. They’re quick to assemble, infinitely adaptable, easy to eat, and immediately satisfying—the very definition of good food.
The 25 sandwiches you’re about to meet can be thrown together during the average basketball halftime or, with practice, during the seventh-inning stretch. (Who needs hot dogs, anyway?) Use each recipe as a basic road map, but bring your talent for finding creative routes. You’ll easily reach your final destination: a full belly and a satisfied smile.
1. B. A. L. T.
Think BLT, but better. Smear sandwich bread with some mayo thinned with a bit of lemon juice. Layer on a couple of pieces of good bacon—cooked not too crisp—avocado, lettuce, and tomato.
2. Fig and Prosciutto
Layer pieces of ciabatta or a sturdy sandwich roll with grated fontina or mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced figs, and arugula. If you have a panini maker, grill the sandwich until it’s hot and crispy. Otherwise, cook it on a grill pan or skillet until the cheese melts.
3. Sausage and Peppers
In a bit of olive oil, fry a good-quality sweet Italian sausage until it’s crisp and brown. Remove it, and cook sliced red, yellow, or green peppers in the fat, along with some sliced onion. Pile everything onto a roll or a split loaf of French or Italian bread.
4. Fish Sandwich with Chili-Lime Dressing
Dredge a fish fillet in cornmeal and then pan-fry it until it’s crisp. Serve on a crusty roll with shredded cabbage or lettuce, chopped cilantro, and sliced tomatoes. Thin some mayo with lime juice, add chili powder and minced garlic, and slather the dressing on the bun before serving.
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5. Open-Faced Toasted Almond Sandwich
Use a blender or food processor to puree shelled toasted almonds with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, lemon rind, and fresh sage. Spread the puree on crusty bread and layer it with pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Broil it just until the cheese melts, and you’re good to go.
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6. Grilled Cheese with Pears
Thickly butter (or brush with good olive oil) both sides of two pieces of sandwich bread. Layer the insides with sharp cheddar cheese or fontina, and thinly sliced, fully ripe pears. Pan-grill (use a panini maker if you have one) until the bread is golden and the cheese has melted.
7. Croque Monsieur
Thickly butter (or brush with good olive oil) both sides of two pieces of sandwich bread. Layer with ham (not prosciutto), Gruyere or Comte cheese, and Dijon mustard. Pangrill (use a panini maker if you have one) until the bread is golden and the cheese has melted.
8. Eggplant Parm Sandwich
Toss eggplant slices in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grill or sauté on both sides until tender. While they’re still hot, top them with thinly sliced mozzarella and let it melt. Serve on crusty bread with fresh tomatoes, basil, and grated Parmesan.
9. Lyonnaise Sandwich
Top a piece of crusty bread with a pile of frisée (or other bitter greens). Cover it with a slab of crisp-cooked pancetta or bacon, and lay a poached or fried egg on top. Drizzle it, if you like, with a tiny bit of olive oil mixed with wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. You’ll never eat another Egg McMuffin.
10. Asian Shrimp and Vegetable Wrap
Slice cooked shrimp in half the long way, and toss them with some sesame oil and soy sauce. On a piece of lavash or other flatbread, layer some chopped baby bok choy or cabbage, mung beans, crisp sautéed shiitake mushrooms, and the shrimp. Add a little more soy sauce (or, better, soy-laced mayo), and wrap it up.
11. Turkey Apple Burger
Combine ground turkey with finely chopped onion, diced tart apples, salt and pepper, and a few leaves of chopped fresh tarragon or sage; grill or pan-cook. Serve on a hamburger bun with arugula or other salad green and a smear of Dijon mustard to amp up the flavor even further.
12. Open-Faced Prosciutto and Asparagus
Lay thinly sliced prosciutto on half a baguette. Top it with asparagus spears that’ve been steamed or grilled until quite tender. Toss some arugula with olive oil and lemon, and lay that on top of the asparagus. A little Dijon wouldn’t hurt. Eat it open-faced to halve the carb load.
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Start with a combination you like, such as banana, honey, and almonds; avocado and peanuts; cooked sweet potatoes and hazelnuts; apricots and almonds; peaches and pistachios; or roasted beets and walnuts. Lightly mash and then smear the spread on toasted bread, and sprinkle on some more chopped nuts.
14. Spicy Crab-Salad Sandwich
Mix lump crabmeat with a bit of sesame oil, a chopped Thai (or other) chili, scallion, garlic, and salt. Mound it all on a roll with shredded napa or Savoy cabbage, and squeeze lime juice over everything.
15. Croissant with Herbed Goat Cheese and Spinach
Mix goat cheese with freshly chopped oregano and thyme, and spread it on a split croissant. Add spinach or arugula, and chopped olives or roasted red peppers. (Sliced turkey or ham is optional.)
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16. Thanksgiving Sandwich
Spread whole-wheat toast with goat cheese or cream cheese. Top with cranberry sauce and cooked turkey, and add avocado slices, along with some cooked and crumbled bacon.
17. Turkish Lamb Pocket
Sauté ground lamb with chopped onions, minced garlic, ground cinnamon (along with a little ground cumin and coriander if you like), and salt and pepper. Stuff into a pita with freshly chopped tomatoes and shredded romaine lettuce. Top with a dollop of yogurt (Greek-style is best), a squeeze of lemon, and, if you like, a bit of minced onion.
18. Chicken Red-Pepper Pesto Panini
Purée roasted red peppers with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Smear the mix on split ciabatta or similar bread. Top with grilled chicken and chopped arugula or other spicy greens that are drizzled with a little more balsamic vinegar.
19. Niçoise Hero
Mash good-quality tuna (canned in olive oil) with some pitted black oil-cured olives and drained capers. Spread it into a scooped-out roll with lettuce, tomatoes, raw or steamed green beans, and a squeeze of lemon. Sliced hard-boiled egg is good in here, too.
20. Pork Sandwich with Red-Onion Relish
Sauté red onion slices in olive oil until soft, adding a splash of red-wine vinegar as they cook. Slice roasted pork thinly, layer it on sourdough bread, and top the pork with the onion relish. A little ketchup would help.
21. PB, B & B (or, the Elvis Alternative)
Toast two slabs of crusty white bread, and slather them with peanut butter. Build layers of bacon and banana until the sandwich is a hunka burnin’ peanut-butter love. Then hit the gym. You’ll need to work this one off.
22. Sushi Sandwich
Cover a rice cake or rice cracker with thin slices of sushi-grade tuna. (The tuna is easier to slice thin if you freeze it for half an hour or so.) Smear lightly with wasabi paste and then drizzle it with good soy sauce. Optional toppings include chopped pickled ginger or lightly toasted and crumbled nori seaweed.
23. Smoked Salmon and Dill on Pumpernickel
Spread cream cheese or plain yogurt thinly on slices of pumpernickel bread; top with smoked salmon and fresh dill. Very thinly sliced lemon works magic here, too. Ditch the rind before adding.
24. Bistro Baguette
Grill a skirt steak (few foods are faster to prepare), while you caramelize (slowly sauté) some onions in olive oil. Layer the steak and onions on a baguette with watercress, sliced tomatoes, and mustard.
25. Roast Beef with Horseradish and Cucumbers
Mix horseradish with enough mayo to make it spreadable, and smear it on whole-grain bread. Top with thinly sliced roast beef, thinly sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced onion rings (optional), and arugula or another spicy green to complete the effect.