So, one of the really great/really awful aspects of having a blog about what you cook is that it holds you sort of accountable in a way (that way being: to a lot more people) that you wouldn’t be otherwise. If your family is bored by the fact that you go through two weeks alternating between only spaghetti and scrambled eggs for dinner, well that’s their problem. But, then if that’s all you have to write about for a whole contingent of people who are strangers yet friends and who don’t have to love you no matter what, well suddenly you find yourself a little abashed and searching in all sorts of nooks and crannies you wouldn’t have checked otherwise for ideas for something new and creative to cook. I should do a study on whether blogging changes the eating/cooking habits of the people who keep the blogs. Is it too late to change my dissertation?
Anyway, last week was one of those weeks that was really, truly not worth writing home about (from a culinary standpoint). Joel was away working in Washington D.C., so I was home alone for the week, and I was incredibly busy with work/school insanity. So, my meal preparation took a little wonky tour through the land of On A Shoestring. Which, all things considered, is not at all a bad place to visit, but which is probably not very interesting to others (like, nothing but really drab, boring postcards and chintzy souvenirs). I went to dinner with a friend one night. Prepared steak and roasted vegetables the next, which I progressively ate my way through over the next 4 days. Then I had sauteed greens with a fried egg. I didn’t even get my camera out.
The week wasn’t totally lost though. Allow me to tell you about the sandwich I had Friday evening, which I packed along with me to take on a little (er, rather long, actually) road trip I took with a friend to D.C. to join Joel – and hundreds of thousands of other people. Oh, and John Stewart. The sandwich is called “the farmer’s lunch,” and we discovered it at a little grocery store and cafe right down the street from where we live. The store is both wonderful and slightly ridiculous. It may be the world’s – or at least country’s – most expensive grocer’s. It’s all really carefully selected high quality stuff, local, organic, artisanal, hand crafted…And everything from their cafe and bakery is delicious. But at the same time as exemplifying all the standards I hold for my food, you have to admit that it is, as a friend of mine quipped, “like a ‘white person’ threw up in there.” (That’s in reference to the hilarious bog Stuff White People Like, in case you’re not familiar. A painfully accurate parody of current popular and yuppy culture.) But, ridiculous or not, we love it – especially the coffee and sandwiches – and it’s frequently a weekend lunch destination.
It would be hard to choose a very favorite sandwich, but The Farmer’s Lunch is a definite contender. It sounds weird and like it’s not going to be very good when you read the description. Cheddar cheese, pickled green tomatoes, apples, mustard, mayo and that’s about it. But, don’t be deceived. It’s amazing!!! It took a while to even get around to trying it because it doesn’t scream awesome and delicious combination of flavors when you read about it on a chalkboard. But, as soon as I tried it I fell instantly head over heels in love, and it’s very rare that I ever order something else. Of course, you also can’t spend $7 on a sandwich every day (well, maybe you can, but I can’t), so the thing to do in this situation is figure out how to recreate it at home. It’s really quite easy, provided you manage to get your hands on pickled green tomatoes (or I suppose you could use regular sweet-sour pickles, if you absolutely must). Sometimes you can find them in specialty food stores or on the internets. Or, if you happen to have planted your vegetable garden in a place that was far shadier than you expected because you absent-mindedly evaluated the sunlight there before the trees had gotten leaves, then you might have a bunch of green tomatoes that you can pickle yourself. All it takes is about a half hour, plus a week or so of pickling time. The pickled green tomatoes are delicious on all manner of sandwiches, including burgers and hotdogs, and I’m sure they have other creative uses that I haven’t even thought of yet. But, I still think the farmer’s lunch is the tastiest of all.
The Farmer’s Lunch (makes 1 sandwich)
A quick note: because this sandwich is pretty simple overall, make sure you use really, really good starting ingredients, like high quality cheddar, excellent mayo, and seriously delicious and crusty baguette.
- 1/4 really good baguette
- good mayo
- whole grain mustard
- 3 ounces (or even a bit more) really good sharp cheddar, sliced
- 1/4 tart apple (like a Granny Smith or Cortland), cut into thin slices
- 1-2 leaves of red leaf or butter lettuce
- a few pieces of pickled green tomato, sliced thinly (use store bought, or for homemade see recipe below) (you could also try the sandwich with regular sweet-sour pickles, but the green tomatoes are oh so good!)
- Cut baguette in half horizontally to open. Smear each side with a layer of mayo and mustard. On the bottom side of the bread, layer on the slices of cheese, the apple slices, the pieces of green tomato, and the lettuce. Cover up the sandwich with the top. Wrap tightly in sandwich paper until you’re ready to eat. It’s best eaten within a few hours, but you could make it the night before and keep it in the fridge until morning.
Pickled green tomatoes:
- 1 quart jar with lid
- 1 pound green (underripe) tomatoes
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- a large pinch whole cloves
- a large pinch celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon pickling salt or Kosher salt
- Sterilize your empty jar and lid in boiling water (or a dishwasher) and set aside on a clean towel to dry.
- Wash the tomatoes and cut into quarters. Pack the tomatoes into the clean jar until nearly full.
- Combine the vinegar, water, honey, salt, and all the spices in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and allow to boil for a few minutes (3-5). Pour this over the tomatoes in the jar until the tomatoes are covered and the liquid reaches up to about 1/2 inch from the top of the jar. Slide a wooden skewer or spoon around the inside wall of the jar to make sure there are no air bubbles.
- Screw the lid onto the jar. Allow to cool, then refrigerate. The flavor should be developed enough to enjoy within a couple of days, and the pickles will keep in the refrigerator for several months.