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The enlightened sandwich

Not every sandwich has attained an awareness that frees it from the Buddhist cycle of rebirth. This one, though – mmm-hmm. It has.

enlightened-sandwichNo matter what else happens in a day, I can always count on a little rumble of hunger to awaken in my belly precisely at 4 p.m. It’s one of those small, comfortable certainties that sets the rhythm of my life. Now that my frenemy mother nature is starting to bounce back from her worse-than-usual bout of PMS, the girls and I often spend an afternoon hour or two at the park after school; so on most days, the rumble goes down while I’m chatting with a few friends, trying to act like the nonchalant kind of mom who can stand three-people-deep away from her kid in a crowded urban park without feeling a lurch in her belly right next to the rumble.

On days when I haven’t had a chance to shop or prep for dinner yet – days which, in flusher times, were called sushi night – planning starts with asking around to see what other people will be making. (This is what we park moms talk about when we get bored with fluid dynamics and have already dismantled all the terrorist cells.) One day last week, my friend Daphne floated the idea of the “enlightened sandwich” as a respectable last-minute dinner option. I couldn’t agree more, and I certainly couldn’t have said it better.

There are many, many forms of enlightened sandwich, and I’ve made and supped on dozens over the years. Pressed sandwiches, for example, used to be de-facto enlightened; but then Emeril went and branded a panini press. (Panini is plural, for god’s sake. Plural. Sorry, I’ve been wanting a forum for that since 1999. I’ll be registering umamibitch.com as soon as I’m done here.) Anyway, these days, I suspect everyone has their own loose sets of parameters that raise a sandwich to enlightened status. Mine almost always involve a homemade or home-altered condiment with a bit of zip (bam!), really good bread, really good cheese and some kind of veg that offers a little textural contrast. Last week, these elements came together in the form pictured above: shredded chicken, provolone cheese, tomato, avocado, shredded red cabbage dressed with a bit of lime and salt, and a chipotle-garlic mayo. There is no name quite passionate enough for this beauty of a sandwich, and no mouth quite big enough. Come to think of it, those are two more of my parameters.

I’m having a hard time taking myself seriously enough to give you a recipe for a sandwich, and I think that’s probably a good thing, right? Here’s an ingredient list, and a little recipe for the chipotle-garlic mayo, or, as I like to say out loud to prevent me from taking myself too seriously, chipotle aioli (chip-OHT-lay ay-oh-LEE. Try it for fun). Otherwise, just put the stuff on the bread, tear into it, and prepare for spiritual awakening.

Enlightened Sandwiches

Your favorite crusty bread
Red cabbage, shredded and tossed with a bit of lime juice and salt
Sliced avocado
Sliced tomato
Sliced provolone cheese
Cooked chicken, shredded (leftovers or store-bought rotisserie work well here)

Chipotle Aioli
Makes enough for 2-3 portions

¼ cup mayonnaise
1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced, plus 1 Tablespoon adobo sauce
1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste with ¼ teaspoon salt
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lime (about 1 Tablespoon of juice)

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, then spread the aioli on the bread.


Hi there, I'm Carolyn, and I'm delighted you're here. I'm a NYC-area food, travel, yoga, coffee, wine, running, music making and book obsessive with a great family and a love for sharing it all with you. Grab a drink and come on in. Learn more.