I have a serious love affair with delicatessens. While living in Europe, I would often walk into these spaces -- some tiny, some large -- when I felt stressed. I had fun browsing, feasting my eyes as I gazed at the range of cold cuts, cheeses, pates, dips and ready-made sauces, specialty breads and crackers, unusually shaped pastas, snacks, exotic condiments from around the world, wines, chocolates and other gourmet treats. My mind would be abuzz with the different combinations I could play with for that moment or for future use. Whenever I didn't feel like cooking or had to do some last-minute entertaining for colleagues or clients, I could always pop into trusted delis and pick up some soup, prepared salads or ready-made appetisers they could munch on while I prepared the main dish.
Here in Jamaica, we are now seeing the rise of deli counters in supermarkets and a few stand-alone delis. Deli is the shortened word for delicatessen, which is Germanic in origin meaning a store for delicious food. Cold cut meats are a huge feature of delicatessens. Before refrigeration, meats were often cured, smoked and pickled for preservation. Many of these traditions stand today, especially with pork products such as Black Forest ham, salami, prosciutto, for example, and it's not an uncommon sight to see legs of ham hanging in delis throughout Europe, especially in Italy and Spain. On this side of the world they are often prepackaged and sliced according to the weight we need.
I am really happy we have deli offerings here and no longer have to feel jealous of my European and US-based friends. Now, whenever I have certain cravings, I know I can satisfy them. Next, I am keeping my fingers crossed to see more assorted breads.
The celebrated chef James Beard once said, "Too few people understand a really good sandwich." I adore making sandwiches for a light, no-fuss meal. In New York City, I have eaten some of the best deli sandwiches in my life. Delis were originally Jewish establishments typically run by Polish and Russian immigrants who were escaping persecution. I like to order my sandwiches old-style: rye or sourdough if I am in a Jewish establishment, with chips and a pickle on the side. If I am in an Italian deli, I like to order my sandwiches on ciabatta or focaccia. Gourmet sandwiches are usually the cornerstone of a really good deli. Here are two simple recipes you can do at home this week. Enjoy!
Smoked Turkey, Mozzarella and Pesto Rolls
I love smoked turkey breast, but you can also use regular or honey-roasted turkey breast or turkey pastrami in this sandwich. Likewise you can substitute with Swiss or Provolone cheese, play around and see what you fancy. Serve with a soup or salad for a more substantial meal. You can either use the dinner rolls in their original state or toasted, it depends on what you prefer. Just make sure the bread is really fresh.
Smoked Turkey Breast Slices, (I usually use 2 to 3 slices per person)
Pesto, enough to spread
Split sandwich bread in half and spread pesto on bottom half.
Top with cheese slices, then lettuce, tomato and turkey
Top with other half of bread.
Grilled Eggplant, Pepper and Hummus Sandwich
This meat-free sandwich is filling and satisfying. It's perfect for vegetarians and for your Meatless Monday lunches or light dinners.
Sweet pepper, cut in halves, seeds removed
Red onion, cut into thick rings
1 to 2 cloves of garlic to taste, crushed
In a bowl add crushed garlic and olive oil. Add eggplant slices and coat well, season with salt and pepper, and grill until cooked through.
Also grill the peppers and red onions.
Split French bread in half lengthways.
Spread a generous amount of hummus on the bottom half.
Top with grilled eggplant, peppers and onions.
Layer some cilantro over vegetables and top with remaining half of French bread and slice into sandwiches.
Thanks to my weekly sponsor MegaMart on Waterloo Road. Do too, check out their deli counter.
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