As the summer hits its peak and the excitement over locally sourced products ramps up, there has never been a better time to amp up the good-old summer standbys, salads and sandwiches. With all that is happening in the culinary world in Central Texas, it’s clear that once-static food trends are, as the president has so famously said, evolving. Why not change up these sunny-day staples a bit and throw some excitement their way (and yours)? The best part? You don’t have to be an award-winning chef. All you need is a little bravery and creativity.
There’s no right or wrong way to prepare a salad or a sandwich. (Well, maybe it would be wrong if you prepared them with your unwashed monkey feet, but that’s a different article entirely.) These are truly personal creations. Even with the most straightforward of recipes, many restaurants in town have brought their own creative twist to these light, summer meals. At Cenote, a fabulous new spot on the east side of town, sandwiches and salads are made with the care and creativity you just don’t get from a corporate shoe box with chips and a sad pickle spear. Using local produce, some from an on-site garden, the food is so good that you’ll not only taste the difference—you’ll see it, too. All it takes is a little bit of attention toward produce and a lot of love in layering.
The best inspiration? Try something new. Step outside of your culinary box and try new flavors. Replace your norm with something special you’ve never heard of or have always seen but never actually bought. Temporarily ditch the bread you’ve been eating since you were a kid and amp up your sandwich with a toasty baguette, sweet, pillowy challah or any other unique artisan bread that catches your fancy. Why not go out and try a new restaurant full of unfamiliar foods? You’re bound to find a little inspiration. And what could be more fun than trying to re-create a great meal at home?
The secret to a fabulous looking sandwich is contrasting layers. If you’re anything like me, your impatience (and downright hunger) may keep you from being creative about such a straight- forward meal, but think about it…the second-best thing to biting into layers of savory meats, cheeses and veggies is leting your eyes trickle down each layer, admiring the way the crisp lettuce nestles up to the pliant cheeses, the saucy meats, the colorful condiments.
But man (and woman) does not live on sandwich alone. Once you’ve taken the time to grab some new or creative ingredients, why not dress up your salad and sandwich creations with some fine china, linen napkins, and a fabulous summer cocktail (flip to L Epicure for our suggestions).
Get creative. Add some strawberries or oranges to your salad. And don’t forget jicama. Cool, crisp, and lightly sweet, this vegetable is the perfect salad complement.
Throw on some extra fresh herbs, pomegranate seeds or even kumquats or slices of melon. You don’t care, you’re fearless!
Don’t forget the cheese! Perfect on any sandwich is a lovely brie. Why not replace the classic slices of cheddar or Colby jack cheese by using a bit of brie instead. While you’re throwing caution to the wind, lose the turkey and lettuce, too. How about a nice gooey brie sandwich with a caramelized onion jam and some thick, English bacon? Screw you, turkey!
Looking for an easy “twist” to an everyday salad? Add some warm goat cheese. Turn on the oven, roll the goat cheese into a small ball, sprinkle some spices on top (even Mrs. Dash does the trick) and let it warm up for just about five minutes at 300 degrees. If you’d like, you can even toss some pecans or candied walnuts on top. You’ll be delightfully surprised at just how much punch is packed into this casual preparation.
Cenote’s Strawberry Fields Salad
In a large bowl, combine traditional spring mix, shredded carrots, sliced straberries and mango.
In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together fresh basil, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic and orange juice. Pour dressing over salad and toss.
Cenote’s Turkey Avocado Sandwich
Start with two slices of artisan bread (Cenote uses Panaderia Chuy). Spread chipotle mayo on both slices of bread.
Add layers of oven-roasted turkey slices, sliced avocado, tomatoes and swiss cheese. Toast the sandwich on a panini press. (If you don’t have one, you can prepare on the stovetop like a traditional grilled cheese.
Push hard! slice and serve!