I don’t know about y’all…but when the summer sun gets raging hot…I crave sandwiches.  With summer in full swing it’s time to break the bread and pile it high…but like me, have you grown tired of mustard and meat (or a veggie friendly substitute) and mayo?  It’s time to move your sandwiches forward.  Obviously, you need to start with great ingredients…good fresh bread, artisan meats and cheeses, and seasonal veggie (add a little great olive oil and some salt and that’s sometimes all you need) but you can’t imagine how far a great tomato marmalade or homemade pickles or a Dijon-horseradish sauce can elevate your sandwich.  Think beyond the usual suspects in your additions:  I like to marinate thin slices of summer squash in lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs to add a little kick to a grilled fish sandwich topped with homemade aioli.  A better sandwich is not far away…

Condiments

Start making your own condiments.  Ketchup is surprisingly easy…you can find good recipes for them all over the web.  However, I prefer to take the concept of a ketchup and make my own version of it.  Lately I’ve been roasting cherry tomatoes at 350 degrees until they reach a raisin-like quality in look and intensity of flavor.

Who needs Heinz?

Combine with a little honey, sherry vinegar, shallot, olive oil and smoked paprika and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.  Let it cool and spoon it on top of some great spicy sopresatta with buratta on a nice ciabatta.  Add some cumin and a hint of saffron to the “ketchup” and pair it with pork on a crusty baguette.  Or just slather it on a burger and be glad you’re alive.

Happy Burgers

The one condiment all of my clients ask me to make jars and jars of?  Dijon-horseradish sauce.  I originally developed it to pair with a slow roasted brisket…but it also rocks on roast beef, turkey, and grilled swordfish sandwiches…especially with homemade pickles (we’ll discuss further down). So for the sauce…a table spoon each of Dijon, greek yogurt, and prepared horseradish (though if you’re like me you’re going to want to add a lot more horseradish).  Throw in white pepper, kosher salt, honey, olive oil, a small dash of sherry vinegar and you’re ready to kill it son.

Pickles

Many sandwiches aren’t really complete until they’ve been paired with the right pickle.  And let’s not kid ourselves…pickles are NOT just cucumbers soaked in brine.  You can pickle just about anything…and most of the time it’s pretty frickin’ delicious.  Basic pickling means placing your desired item in some sort of brine….that can be salt and sugar, salt and lemon juice, vinegar and spices, it doesn’t really matter just as long as your soaking something in acid, salt, sweet.  If you have some really good vinegar, you can simply add some water, sugar, and salt to it and then toss in thinly sliced red onion.  Keep ‘em in the fridge and use at your discretion.  The new Momofuku Cookbook (previously lapped up by this blog) has several marvelous pages devoted to good pickling…and the master recipe is essential: hot water, rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt.  From daikon, to cucumber, to garlic, to bean sprouts…this is a simple recipe that will add bright notes to any torta, bahn mi, pan bagnat, and beyond.

Lately, the one pickle I’ve been living off of:  pickled golden raisins.  This is a bastardized version of a recipe I got from the marvelous Suzanne Goin (whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with as a waiter at her husband, David Lentz’s joint The Hungry Cat, and her most recent venture Tavern).  This one has a little bit more work to it…but well worth it:  toast brown mustard seeds, cumin seeds, thyme, and bay leaf in a pan.  When you begin to smell the herbs and spices, then you know they’re ready to go…turn off the heat and add some fresh ground white pepper…let the pepper get warm in the pan and then add it to a bowl of champagne vinegar, honey, and a little hot water to dilute it all.  Steep your raisins in the brine and you’re one step closer to nirvana.  They’ll be ready to use in an hour but they just get better the longer they soak…not to mention that when the pickles are gone, the super-delicious brine remains…waste not, want not.  I’ve got some in my fridge right now and perhaps I’ll use them to create super kick-ass curry chicken salad…who knows?

Pickle it...just a little bit.