How was your weekend?
Mine was quite nice, indeed. On Saturday, we celebrated Richard Simmons’ 63rd birthday with a Broadway-themed morning at Slimmons. Richard was dressed as a present, and sure enough, he looked like Candy Spelling’s gift-wrapping room exploded all over him. You can get an idea of his outfit in this short little video:
Then, on Sunday, I went to a picnic with some friends. We didn’t head to the beach, or a park, or up into the mountains – it was an urban picnic, in downtown Los Angeles. My friends Heather and John are still in town – they’re the ones who are traversing the country on the Les Miserables tour (you can read about our restaurant adventures here and here – the second link also has great bef0re-and-current pics of both Heather and me). Last night, I had tickets with my aunt and uncle to see the show. There was also a matinee performance earlier in the day, and since Heather and John have a dinner break between the two shows, we had the great idea last week to have a little picnic. My friend Jen (who threw the BBQ last week where I brought my cactus salad) came along, as did my friend Dave, who’s been working behind-the-scenes at Les Mis for the past few weeks (Dave’s name briefly popped up in this blog waaaay back in the fall in a hiking post).
So… there would be five of us. What to make? Truth be told, I’m getting a little sick of making salads – I’ve been making a lot of them lately for entertaining purposes, and I’m ready for something different. I wanted it to be easy to transport and easy to eat… I’ve got it! GIANT SANDWICH! Way back in college, I saw Martha Stewart make giant sandwiches on her TV show (the pre-prison one, without the studio audience), and I used to make them every once in a while. It’s been years since I’ve made one, but who doesn’t love a good sandwich?
I thought of some things to make it special, and at the top of the list was caramelized onions. Have you ever made caramelized onions? They take a long time, but they’re good. For the sandwich, I used two medium red onions, which I thinly sliced, and put in a big skillet over medium-low heat with 1 teaspoon olive oil:
Then you play the waiting game, giving it an occasional stir with a wooden spoon. You want the onions to cook low and slow, bringing out the natural sugars, which get sweet and rich and delicious. This skillet o’ onions took about 45 minutes to caramelize, but it was well worth the wait:
I’ve seen recipes (and folks on the Food Network) that speed up the process by adding a few teaspoons of brown sugar to the onions, but I don’t like to add unnecessary sugar to anything if I can avoid it. Plus, it’s not like I was standing over the stove for the better part of an hour agonizing over the process – I got a lot of other stuff done during that time!
Time to assemble my giant sandwich.
First step: Bread. I picked up a ciabatta loaf at the store, which is perfect for a sandwich like this:
It’s a pretty uniform thickness, so every slice of sandwich will have a similar contents-to-bread ratio, and it’s crusty on the outside, and very light and airy on the inside.
I cut it in half, laid it open, and put on my first ingredient – baby spinach. Every sandwich needs some greens!
For protein, I went with turkey. Whole Foods had a tasty lemon rosemary turkey breast in their deli case (I knew it was tasty because I asked for a sample), and I had the guy cut it thick – 1/4″- because a big sandwich needs big cuts of meat. Here what 1 piece of it looked like:
I trimmed off that piece of fat running along the bottom. I coarsely tore up 4-5 pieces (about 12 ounces in total, roughly) and that went on top of the spinach:
Next up: the aforementioned caramelized onions:
Now for some cheese. Since cheese, generally speaking, adds a lot of fat and calories, I went for a cheese that, even if used sparingly, could add a big punch of flavor: blue cheese. Here’s about 1/3 cup, spread across the entire sandwich:
So far, there’s nothing unconventional about this sandwich, right? Well, get ready for the next ingredient: apple! You heard me. I thought it’d add a nice crunch and texture to the sandwich, and a little sweetness would be a nice touch, don’t you think? So I took one Pink Lady apple, cut it up into slices, dunked them in lemon juice so they wouldn’t turn brown, and lined them up on the sandwich:
Final sandwich ingredient? Sprouts. I wanted a little more greenery.
Sandwich complete! Almost. I didn’t want the insides spilling out when I cut this thing into pieces, so I decided to press the sandwich. Plus, it would help the flavors mingle a little more. I didn’t press it in a pan, like you would a panini – I just pressed it on the counter, by placing a baking sheet on top of it, and then putting a few of my heaviest books on top:
It stayed like this for about 20 minutes, while I jumped in the shower and dressed.
Then it was time to pack my cooler bag!
That’s right, I have a Passions cooler bag. I watched that soap every day for about 5 years, and it was terrible, and I loved it. I only use this cooler bag a few times a year, but every time I bring it out, and look at that Passions logo, all sorts of fun soap opera memories come flooding back. Remember when Spike made Jessica prostitute herself, and then he started drugging her with roofies and framing her for the murders of her johns? And then Spike knocked her up, and then he buried her alive, and she and her unborn baby died, but then Kay used the power of prayer to bring them back to life? Remember that? No? Am I the only one that remembers Passions storylines? You all missed out.
Anyway. In addition to the sandwich, the cooler bag also held…
…assorted vegetables and hummus…
…and fruit! That’s strawberries and blackberries on the left, and on the right is… I’m not going to tell you. I’ll give you a hint: it’s not cantaloupe. It’s a different type of melon that I had never bought before, and yes, I will blog about it later this week (so stay tuned for that).
The sandwich got cut up into 8 pieces, and wrapped in foil for the trip downtown. Here’s the loaded bag:
Wanna see the finished sandwich? Check this out:
It looks good, but it tastes even better. It was a hit! And what’s that on the right? Heather and John made a delicious couscous salad. It had tri-colored couscous, grilled chicken that had a great spice rub on it, some corn, some chives… Heather, if I’m forgetting anything, pipe up in the comments section!
It was a great picnic with lovely company, and since Heather and John are in town through the end of the month, we may do it again!
Keep it up, David!