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Sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine.
I like sandwiches, I eat them all the time;
I eat them for my supper and I eat them for my lunch;
If I had a hundred sandwiches, I’d eat them all at once. 
~Fred Penner 

 

No, I did not accidently post the Pastrami blog again.  This is a tribute to Peanut Butter. I have to confess, I think the only reason the blog ladies assigned this one to me is because I told them my favourite sandwich is Peanut Butter and Pickle.  Yes, you read that correctly, and no I’m not pregnant, and no, this is not some malicious food dare.  But more on my favourite sandwich later, first a few observations.

If you plug “peanut butter” into the Epicurious search line it returns 226 recipes.  Food Network Canada gives you 116.  They run the course from sweet to savoury and everything in between.  Google it and you’ll find peanut butter lovers and peanut butter haters and 2000 things you can do with peanut butter.  (Hold the snickering and fat dog jokes.)  Of course, all the big peanut butter producers offer up plenty of their own suggests hoping to encourage peanut butter consumption. 

Apparently all that advertising has paid off.  According to several unassailable internet sources (and I believe everything I read on the internet) Americans consume over 3 pounds of peanut butter each year.  About half of the American peanut crop is used to make peanut butter.  Canada is the largest importer of American peanut products including nearly $16 million worth of peanut butter annually.  While peanut butter consumption may be easily established, the invention of peanut butter is hotly contested.  Some say the first patent for peanut butter production was held by none other than J.H. Kellogg.  I prefer to believe the Wiki version of events that that credits Montrealler, Marcellus Gilmore Edson with the honour in 1884.  Regardless, peanut butter has been widely available and wildly popular for more than a century.  No wonder it’s been lunch box staple for practically every kid in North American for generations.

Now, I don’t eat peanut butter for lunch everyday, but it does play a supporting role in several dishes that I make.  Earlier this week we had cold soba noodles tossed with a peanut dressing with a tilapia fillet on the side.  (Sorry, no photos.  I wasn’t thinking about the blog, only dinner.) Yesterday, I was looking for something sweet to make for my diabetic grandmother.  She doesn’t eat peanut butter much because it usually has so much sugar in it, but the one in my cupboard has no sugar or salt added.  We decided on peanut butter bars.  I adapted a brownie recipe to create what was an undeniable success.

Cakey, moist and delicious Peanut Butter Squares

Diabetic Friendly Peanut Butter Bars

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, no added salt or sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups Splenda
  • 2 tbsp fancy molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

 Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9×9 inch baking pan.
  3. Cream together peanut butter and margarine. Gradually blend in the Splenda, molasses, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix until fluffy.
  4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add nuts to dry ingredients.
  5. Stir dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture until well blended.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in preheated oven, or until the top springs back when touched.
  7. Cool, and cut into 16 squares.

Now back to my favourite sandwich… I don’t remember the first time I put peanut butter and pickles together, but it never seemed odd to me.  I loved peanut butter, particularly on a thick crust of fresh baked bread.  I loved dill pickles and have eaten pickle sandwiches for as long as I can remember.  No one blinks and eye over peanut butter with jam, bananas, celery and chocolate.  Why not pickles?  You may not think of this peculiar combo as haute cuisine but it possesses all the qualities that you look for in truly good food; a combination of textures and colours and a balance between salty and sweet, and between acid and fat.  Are you starting to see the light?

 I understand your scepticism.  It’s not something you’ll see on the menu at the local deli, though you would if I owned it.  It took a lot of convincing to get the sandwich shop near my office to make a PB&P for me.  Just recently my son’s fiancé refused to make him a PB&P because she was so utterly convinced that he was joking. 

K: Okay, funny, now what do you really want for lunch?

D: I want a peanut butter and pickle sandwich.

K: Tell me what you want now or you can make your own lunch.

D: I’m serious. I want a peanut butter and pickle sandwich.

K: I’m not standing here all day.  Just make your own lunch.

A couple of days later when they were at our place, he made me tell her that we do actually eat PB&P sandwiches.  She looked disgusted.  I’m not sure if she’s tried one yet. 

But I promise you, it’s not as weird as it sounds.  If you like peanut butter and you like pickles, I am positive you’ll like them together.  Many have taken the plunge before you and they’ve all come up extolling the virtues of the peanut butter and pickle sandwich.  Just ask my once incredulous husband.  My personal favourite is thick slices of dill pickle and creamy peanut butter on good chewy multi-grain bread.  Bread and butter pickles might be too sweet but there’s nothing wrong with a good kosher pickle.  And, I see no reason why pickled beets wouldn’t be just as good.  I implore you to give it a try.  No, better yet, I dare you!

Bon appétit.

Della

Sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine.
I like sandwiches, I eat them all the time;
I eat them for my supper and I eat them for my lunch;
If I had a hundred sandwiches, I’d eat them all at once.

~Fred Penner

Okay, I don’t quite share Fred Penner’s enthusiasm for sandwiches but I do love a good sandwich and an overstuffed pastrami on dark rye is among my favourites.  Pastrami is not to be confused with its corned beef cousin.  Pastrami is dry cured and smoked whereas corned beef is brined and roasted without smoke.  Though corned beef is great stuff, it just doesn’t compare to a good smoked brisket.  To me this is a great example of simple ingredients delivering big flavour.  Great pastrami is all about the spices in the dry rub and, of course, the smoke.  The finished product is complex, peppery and smoky yet layered with the aromatic notes of coriander and allspice.  Delectably seasoned and roasted to tender perfection, a hot pastrami sandwich on a cold day is pure beefy bliss.

Schwartz's Smoked Meat on Rye with a Kosher Pickle

New Yorkers claim to be the current epicentre of pastrami achievement.  There are hundreds of delis, good and bad, preparing their own unique recipes.  Manhattan delis run the gamut.  Carnegies is a Time Square tourist trap where the lines are long, the prices high and the sandwiches large enough to feed a family of four.  That said the pastrami on rye was awesome.  Better yet there is Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side.  Katz’s has been a Manhattan institution since 1888 and still home to a really great sandwich.  If you have space after a sandwich as big as your arm, try to the matzo ball soup while you’re at it.  

But, Montreal boasts its own proud “pastrami” tradition.  While purists may argue they are different, Montreal smoked meat really is pastrami by another name.  My first encounter with Montreal smoked meat in its natural environment was Rueben’s on Rue Ste. Catherine in downtown Montreal.  We squeezed our way into a small table near the back of the restaurant, the only one left in the bustling lunch spot.  So impressed were we with Rueben’s mouth-watering creation we went back a few days later for take-out to bring along on the train to Quebec City.  We were the envy of our rail-car-mates who were left with few dining options outside a vacuum packed tuna on white bread. 

Of course, dear readers, you deserve more than just my nostalgia-fogged memories.  So, being the unreasonably demanding mother that I am sent my daughter on a quest.  Go have a smoked meat sandwich at your favourite deli (on me – she is a student after all).  The terribly onerous conditions were to send me a photo and to share her thoughts.  There is no shortage of delis offering up smoked meat in Montreal.  Rueben’s, Dunn’s, Snowden and the list goes on.  She chose Schwartz’s on St. Laurent which claims to be the oldest deli in Canada, in business since 1928.  Unlike Katz’s the sandwich is a meal for one and it is priced accordingly, still just $5.50 prepared as you like it.

Schwartz's in 1928

The pastrami assignment wasn’t much of a strain for Monique.  She is a true carnivore. So much so that when she came home for Christmas a trip to Memphis Blues Barbeque House was at the top of the “To Do” list.  Memphis Blues is euphemistically known as the “meat restaurant” around our house.  Schwartz’s is her Montreal “meat restaurant” and Monique has tried them all.  After several months of rigorous research she has concluded that Shwartz’s is the best.  According to Monique, “the brisket is well marbled and is really moist and flakey.  The sandwich needs something acid to cut the fat and the plain French’s yellow mustard definitely makes the difference.”  Then she betrayed me and rejected the superior wisdom of a sophisticated palate!  “The hot mustard at Max’s would overwhelm the flavour of Montreal smoked meat,” she said naively.  Blasphemy I say!

I really do believe that fresh is best when your talking pastrami, but outside Montreal and New York, you’re unlikely to find someone hand slicing a brisket behind the counter. Here in Vancouver our choices are not plentiful but your pastrami craving can be deliciously satisfied.   Max’s Bakery and Delicatessen on Oak Street (at 15th) is my personal favourite.  The menu options are plentiful, but I have to admit I always have the same thing, pastrami and smoked goulda on dark rye with hot mustard.  And at Max’s when they say hot, they mean it!  Of course you’ll find a crisp kosher pickle on the side.  A close second is homemade.  You can now buy Dunn’s Montreal Smoked Meat at Costco of all places!  George and I had pastrami and ementhaller on rye for lunch last weekend.  Mmmmmm.  It might not have the ambience of Swartz’s but my kitchen rarely smells so good on a Saturday afternoon.

Montreal Smoked Meat on Rye with an appropriate array of pickles

Now, you could make your own pastrami but it takes time, a significant chunk of fridge space for three to four weeks and a multi burner barbeque to allow you to smoke and slow cook the meat.  I made my own corned beef once and while I was thrilled with the result, on balance, it was just not worth the effort.  There are just too many high-quality, affordable options available.  However, having made it myself, I now respect the craft and enjoy the finished product all the more.  Whether you visit your favourite deli, buy a packaged product for home or undertake making your own, I encourage you to have a hot, juicy pastrami sandwich the next time you’re looking for a casual but immensely satisfying meal.  Can you use pastrami to make something other than a sandwich? Of course, but why would you?

Sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine.
I like sandwiches, I eat them all the time…

Bon appétit.

Della

I’m going to skip the historical jaunt through the history of the sandwich* and launch right into my Personal Sandwich Olympics!

…Drumroll please….

anjouBronze Medal: USA

Open Faced, tomato, cheese, huge slab of toasted bread.

Consumed happily on a stop at the Anjou Bakery in the middle of an orchard in Washington State.

I think Schmoo’s face says it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

s in Ireland

No, we weren't 12 when we went to Ireland. Seriously.

Silver Medal: Ireland

Brie and Mashed Potatoes on brown.

Colorful, no. Tasty to two girls walking the Cliff’s of Mohr, and subsequently having a picnic cliff-side with our backs to the warm rocks and our faces to the ocean breezes? Heck ya.

Besides, we were in Ireland, you put potatoes in everything.

[For the record, this photo is of Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold Medal: CANADA (WOOT!)

In September 2003 Schmoo and I set out to make the perfect sandwich, something which would be worthy of  nice bottle of red that RC had given to me for my birthday six months previous, and jealously hoarded since.

We bought a round of sourdough at the Italian Bakery, picked fresh cherry tomatoes from my yard, crisped the bacon, slathered on the mayo, and topped with brie.  Sadly no photos exist, but I do have an email to RC from the next morning where I report that I was “lovely, warm, comfy and appeased” by the wine and sandwich night. A gold medal sandwich indeed.

Tonight’s sandwich is a homage to the gold medal winner: roasted-garlic bread (toasted), goat brie, thick sliced bacon, tomato, polski ogorki pickles and salt and pepper.

It was really really good.

So I made and ate another.

sammy

*Other than to clear this up: an 18th century aristocrat did NOT invent the sandwich. Come  on people, it’s meat and cheese between bread… did you really think that nobody thought of that before?

Dea.