By Carolyne

I’ve heard people say it’s too expensive to shop at the deli counter, buying fresh-cut lunch meats; yet those same people will spend bigger dollars at a drive thru or a food court. To each his own, but fresh is always better, and likely better food.

These are plain and simple sandwiches but there’s nothing ordinary about them:

Honey maple ham and Jarlsburg light extra thin Norway cheese, on Dimpflmeier 7 grain fresh bread slices

Butter this soft wonderful bread right to the edge and use shredded (minced) ham. Ask the deli to cut it fresh for you and double-check that they understand what “mince” means.

I have no idea why this ham tastes better shredded (minced), but it does. All the items here came from a local grocery deli counter, where I stand and watch them shred and slice to special order. Many supermarkets offer fresh deli counter meats and cheeses. Ask for taste tests — they are more than happy to provide them. I don’t buy pre-cut at the deli because it gets dry. And I haven’t bought pre-packaged sliced meats in probably 50 years. If you were to read the packaging, you wouldn’t buy it either. Chock full of preservatives.

My fresh homemade egg salad on a plain toasted, buttered English muffin warm, just freshly made or room temperature (not yet refrigerated) is an ideal way to start the day, or pack it and take in a lunch bucket.

Avocado slices with salt and pepper and real bacon and slices of fried potato on toasted whole wheat English muffin is another option. It could be leftover hash browns or latke.

If eating at home, top it with a runny poached egg – and for a spectacular start to your day, top it with fresh-made hollandaise sauce. This sandwich will keep you sated for several hours. Alternate to the avocado: a sliced fresh, firm, juicy peach.

Slice your favourite steak, barbecued, broiled, pan-fried, whatever way you like it best, on the diagonal into very thin slices (ask your butcher about tri-tip or skirt steak). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, even if you seasoned it when you cooked it (also great way to use leftover roast beef).

Serve on your favourite grilled crostini bread as an open face sandwich or between two slices of bread as a closed sandwich; as an alternative, load beef slices into a large wonderful pink sun-dried tomato tortilla, once over lightly warmed in a dry sauté pan. Drizzle with my spectacular barbecue serving sauce, fill and roll and tuck the ends in like a package.

An alternate choice of sauce for your beef sandwiches: Drizzle my favourite, anchovy-free Caesar salad dressing over the beef. Or, spread small dollops of my homemade tomato butter over the cold leftover beef, not on the bread. Or, just drizzle the beef slices with extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar, 3:1, mixed with mustard and gooey oven roasted garlic. Put the oil and vinegar in a little empty spice jar with a screw-top lid. Shake and serve. Maybe add a little mesclun greens.

Homemade mayo works well with the sliced roast beef sandwiches when you add fresh grated horseradish. For leftover meatloaf or a meatball sandwich, drizzle a squirt of mustard. Try it on fresh generously buttered rye bread. Top with a split dill pickle. For a special treat: batter and deep-fry thin pickle slices. Amazing!

For leftover chicken:

Pick the bones. Add fresh ground pepper. Top with my special homemade Caesar salad dressing or mayo, modified with sour cream added and fresh dill, or fresh grated horseradish, or fresh grated Parmesan. Very yum!

For vegetarians:

Make a veggie sandwich using shredded sautéed browned brussels sprouts, top with crunchy bean sprouts and a thick slice of red beefsteak tomato. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar 3:1.

Sandwich alternates: Leftover broccoli rabe or even sautéed cauliflower. Drizzle with white wine vinegar, spritz with extra virgin olive oil, 1:3 and top with crushed candied walnuts from your pantry jar. Add thick slices of avocado, spritzed with fresh squeezed lime juice.

Try this:

On a warm round of focaccia bread with rosemary and other herbs…

Top the focaccia with Norway light Jarlsberg thin cheese slices. Top the cheese with drained cognac marinated black mission figs and little pockets of shredded honey maple ham. Tuck in a few roasted red and yellow peppers. And chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Split a handful of Manzanilla pepper stuffed olives. Spritz with a spray mix of extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar 3:1. Cover with slivers of my caramelized baguette style onions.

Dot with a little more Norway cheese and pop under the pre-heated broiler for just seconds.

Chances are that you haven’t had a sandwich like this before.

Croissant sandwich – Honey ham and surprise:

Split a fresh soft full-size croissant in half lengthwise. Butter both sides with unsalted butter. (Now’s a good time to use your herbed butter log coins.) Any choice: bell pepper butter, Asbach strawberry butter, herbed butter… mound one side of the croissant with a generous portion of shredded (minced, not sliced) honey ham. On the other side, place three or four overlapping, generous size but thin-sliced provolone cheese slices.

On top of the ham, drizzle a little figgy jus from your black mission fig marinating Asbach Uralt cognac jar. I know it sounds like an odd combination, but on top of the cheese slices, cover completely with paper-thin slices of sweet peppery, crunchy, red radishes. The crispiness is grand. If you have homemade candied walnuts and or a candied citrus rind sugar jar, sprinkle a few of either or each on the sandwich, just before you serve.

Put the two halves of the sliced croissant together and indulge in a wonderful tasty sandwich, the likes of which you might not have ever enjoyed before. You might want to cut the sandwich in half, on the diagonal. This is a wonderful lunchbox, carry-it-to-work treat. Wrap and pack separately, with a frozen gel-bag to keep the croissant fresh. No leaking, and the crunch will stay crisp.

You probably won’t want mustard or mayonnaise, but if you do, squirt on a bit of my honey mustard sauce, or a smear of my spectacular Caesar salad dressing.

ALTERNATE: You could substitute a few very thin crispy apple slices for the radishes, for another choice. You will see there’s no lettuce in this sandwich, but you could always shred any lettuce and add.

And for another day: substitute thinly shredded leftover roast beef for the honey ham and complete the croissant sandwich as above.

Portobello Sandwiches

Spritz with olive oil and grill portobello mushrooms on high heat on a preheated barbecue.

Make a hungry man dinner sandwich using the large grilled mushrooms instead of bread.

Top one mushroom with roasted chopped mixed colour bell peppers, grilled Spanish onions, chopped or sliced. A fat thick slice of beefsteak tomato from your own garden is a great addition, along with a big crispy lettuce leaf.

Chopped garlic or oven roasted garlic, if it is your love, creates a dream combo.

In a stovetop pot, scald a cup of half-and-half cream. Let rise and fall three times. Turn off heat, stirring the cream so it doesn’t burn.

Add a half cup of your favourite blue cheese. Stir to incorporate. But leave lumps. Grind a few black peppercorns. Remove the pan from heat. Let it sit briefly. The sauce will thicken and coat a spoon.

Drizzle the warm sauce over the roasted peppers and onions. Position a second portobello mushroom on top or serve as an open-face sandwich. Now you have a delicious spectacular portobello sandwich. It tastes like steak.

To make a larger meal, as a side, serve giant pommes frites or zucchini fries.

A French onion soup, topped with under the broiler yummy Mozzarella cheese and sprinkled with miniature garlic baguette slices on the melted cheese that you have toasted until crunchy, will make for a memorable meal.

Simple Simon says enjoy!

Oh, and don’t forget your goat cheese grilled cheese sandwich in my  REM spinach column. (Scroll down to Comments.)

The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. Her ebook, Gourmet Cooking - at Home with Carolyne is available here for $5.99 US. Email Carolyne.


  1. Crostini and Tapas or Bruschetta are just open-face sandwiches. Served hot, cold or at room temperature, they are always welcome “fast food,” my way.

    This is perfect realtor-on-the-run food. Made in just minutes any time of day.

    For folks dropping in unexpectedly or invited to a backyard soirée, by definition, either of these edibles comes to the rescue. A list of toppings is endless. A starter, an amuse bouche, or a way to end a perfect meal hours later, a late night snack as the group dispels, or as a lazy morning next day sleepover breakfast…

    Many toppers are already in the refrigerator, the pantry, or in the fruit bowl. A quick mix and you can create your very own one-of.

    Whether you bake your own bread or choose from your favourite bakery or deli, there’s always a combo that offers something new in your repertoire.

    Here’s a few nosh favourites at my house…

    Combined with a mixed cheese and fruit platter, including marinated plain Canadian goat cheese, always available as a snack in my kitchen and a few bottled, store-bought, baby pickled beets from a jar, a little smear of homemade roasted till brown garlic clove purée from your refrigerated jar, this sates the tummy growls as you prepare a full meal or wait on your BBQ perhaps. Add a crunchy toasted, buttered slice of black-olive bread and relax. Enjoy! Oh, yes. Don’t forget to add some Kalamata black olives and even some pitted green ones. Red pepper stuffed Manzanilla olives are good, too. Add a few curled slices of your favourite salami (maybe Genoa), but ask the deli to slice it fresh and “paper see-through thin.” Not only do you get extra mileage out of the salami, but I’m convinced it tastes better. Maybe it’s a personal thing. Try it and check it out for yourself.

    Even just toasted or grilled bread, spritzed with extra virgin olive oil and mounded with fresh “grated” coarse tomato pulp, it’s a winner any time of day.

    NOTE: If you have never “grated” a firm juicy just ripe tomato (any colour) using a box grater wide side, you won’t believe the taste difference. Grate over a large dinner plate and spoon into a strainer to remove excess juice. Toss the skin.

    There’s something about texture that affects taste. I’m not a chemist so I can’t explain why. I put some fresh “grated” tomato on my plate with my special spinach goat cheese mix, filled omelette. For me, no brown on the omelette please; that is a totally different taste (for a complete food turnoff).

    The filled omelette is smeared, ever so lightly once rolled onto the warmed serving plate, with Dijon and sprinkled with a little dry finely grated Parmesan. Then sprinkled with a tiny bit of salt and pepper and sweet paprika. On the side, a half cup of the grated fresh tomato. I don’t even salt and pepper the tomato. It’s “alive” all on its own.

    Sometimes I serve a few coins of my marinated Canadian goat cheese log in a small empty salt cellar dish, the perfect size for not too much wet cheese. Sooooh yum!

    Some people might want to spritz the tomato with a little extra virgin olive oil. You could consider serving a toasted buttered baguette slice. And you might choose to decorate the plate with fresh orange segments taken from a peeled orange leaving no pith, from between the membranes. Either way the combo sates for hours. No need to snack between meals.

    For those who imbibe, if making these exceptional treats after the breakfast hour, as a brunch, lunch or even a light dinner, Stella Artois beer or Molson Export Ale is a good pairing. Or, perhaps indulge in the Canadian created Bloody Caesar with a long celery stir stick. Rim the glass edge with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice, celery salt; and easy on the ice. Add how much hot sauce you like.

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

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