Round the Table: A Summer for Sandwiches

Summer days may be lazy, but by late afternoon, those lazy summer days usually turn chaotic. Longer days mean we pack more into each day and sports practice, summer camp and social clubs. As daylight hours become longer, the end of the day comes later, often times, when it’s time for dinner and everyone is hot and grouchy and hungry and who wants to cook?

Stock your pantry well and plan for leftovers and you can toss together a gourmet sandwich supper at the drop of a hat. Goodbye high-sodium lunchmeat layered with neon-cheese when you can have spicy, warm Southwestern Quesadilla on the table in a flash. Say goodbye to fat laden tuna salad and choose a lighter, fresher salmon salad sandwich that packs more nutrition between two pieces of bread than you could imagine.

To make dinner come together in a flash, keep a few things handy. Always have on hand a variety of vinegars and different olive oils; keep in a cool, dark place for best flavor. Fresh fruit is always welcome in the summer kitchen. Make sure it’s always on hand for snacking, keep lemons and lime available for quick salad dressings or salsas. When grilling, prepare a few extra pieces of meat. You can enjoy the leftovers in salads or on sandwiches. Canned beans are a lifesaver and add an extra bit of protein without heating the kitchen. Find a jarred marinara sauce that you love and keep it on hand. I have been known to open a jar of sauce, cook a pot of spaghetti and throw in some frozen meatballs and call it a day. FYI, my jarred sauce of choice is Rao’s Marinara or Newman’s Own Marinara. Keep a crisper full of salad vegetables and make sure you eat them every week. Always have on hand a few garden tomatoes for impromptu tomato sandwiches or fresh salsa. Keep low-fat tortilla chips and vegetable chips around for snack attacks. Mix ½ cup of sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt, with 1 teaspoon (more if you like) of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt for an easy and delicious dip for chips or veggies.

Plan ahead for leftovers, keep the pantry and fridge stocked, then when the troops drag in at the end of the day, tired, hot and hungry, a healthy, hearty sandwich supper is ready in a flash!


Southwestern Quesadillas are quick and easy and even picky eaters will be happy.

Southwestern Quesadilla


Yield: 2 servings

  • ¼ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup jarred salsa
  • 2 fajita sized flour tortillas
  • ¼-1/2 cup shredded cheese (I use Colby Jack)
  • ½ cup leftover chicken, shredded
  • 2 fajita sized flour tortillas
  • Sour cream
  • Fresh Salsa

Place the beans and salsa in the bowl of a mini food processor and pulse until a thick paste forms; if the paste it too thick and sticks to the blades, add some more salsa. Store this mixture in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To assemble and serve the quesadillas:

Sprinkle cheese over the entire surface of one flour tortilla; top one half of the tortilla with the bean mixture; lay the shredded chicken on top of the bean mixture. Heat in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat until the cheese melts and the tortilla begins to bubble. Fold the cheese-only side over the filling side; remove to a plate and slice. Repeat with the second tortilla. Because the beans and jarred salsa are seasoned, and the cheese needs no salt and leftover chicken is already seasoned, I find that I do not need to add salt and pepper.

Serve with sour cream and fresh salsa. To make fresh salsa, chop cherry tomatoes, red onion, chili peppers, (sweet or hot) and cilantro; add a dash of lime juice and olive oil. The measurements for this depend on what’s in the fridge; I chop what I have available and call it salsa.

If Southwestern food is not for you, consider pulsing white beans with jarred (or fresh) pesto in the food processor. Spread on bakery focaccia and top with a warm summer tomato and fresh mozzarella for an Italian Tomato Sandwich.

Keep things lively at the dinner table and serve salad as a sandwich.

Salmon Salad Sandwiches

Yield: 2 very large sandwiches

  • 4 thick slices of whole wheat, 5-grain bread
  • 4 Tablespoons of prepared lemon hummus
  • 2 or 3 large red lettuce leaves
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Sliced red onion
  • Sliced bell pepper, any color
  • Sliced avocado
  • Sliced fresh mushrooms
  • Leftover grilled salmon, chicken, steak or other grilled fish
  • Broccoli sprouts
  • Lemon Vinaigrette

Toast the bread; take care breads with seeds burn easily.

After the bread is cooled a bit, spread each slice with a tablespoon of hummus. Layer the lettuce, tomato, red onion, pepper, other vegetables and grilled meat on one slice of bread. Add a handful of sprouts and douse with Lemon Vinaigrette. Top with the remaining toast slice. You may need a knife and fork for this one!

All-purpose vinaigrette recipe

To make a perfect vinaigrette, remember this ratio of oil to acid (vinegar or citrus juice): 3:1. That’s three parts oil to every one part of acid. This ratio is not set in stone, so if you prefer a tangier dressing add more acid, if you need a milder one, more oil. But generally speaking, the 3:1 ratio is a great starting point. A pinch of salt and pepper to taste and Vinaigrette 101 is done.

To finesse this a bit, tweak the ingredients to your liking. Generally speaking, all light oils will make a neutral flavored vinaigrette. However, I stay away from all oils but olive, coconut and butter. When I want the acid to shine, such as a lemon vinaigrette, I use a light olive oil; if I’m using a red or balsamic vinegar, I choose a stronger tasting olive oil. Example, if I am making a snappy orange vinaigrette to serve over fish, then I choose a lighter tasting oil so the orange will shine. I also add some lemon juice so the vinaigrette is more tart than sweet.

Salt and pepper is always a given for salad dressing, but feel free to add any herbs, garlic or dried spice blends you want. When I’m making lemon vinaigrette, I usually use a healthy Dash of salt-free seasoning. I like to put a garlic clove through the press and add fresh herbs for a vibrant vinaigrette that pair with grilled red meat.

To keep the vinaigrette from separating easily, try mustard. A teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard does the trick as well as adds a little extra flavor. If you are making a sweeter vinaigrette, honey does a fine job of emulsifying the dressing as it adds a bit of sweetness.

The beauty of this formula is you can make as much or as little dressing as you need. Use 3 tablespoons of oil and 1 of vinegar and you have a perfect single serve size. Use 3 gallons of oil and 1 gallon of vinegar and you can serve a lot of salad, but you’re on your own for seasoning amounts!

Shake all the ingredients in a canning jar with a tight fitting lid, and you can always have fresh, tasty salad dressing in the refrigerator all the time. Best of all, no inflammatory oils, chemicals or unnecessary sugars in your salad dressing. You’ll find yourself using it on lots more than salads.

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