Single-Slice Sandwiches from Around the World

Single-Slice Sandwiches
from Around the World

Author Karen Kaplan
Review by Adrianne Morrison & Linda Kissam
Photos by Heidi Marie Wagstaff except as noted.

The open faced sandwich model gets a modern global makeover in this fresh cookbook concept by Karen Kaplan.  You’ll never quite look at this kind of sandwich in the same light again. Open Faced: Single-Slice Sandwiches from Around the World crosses international borders to bring renewed, creative flavors to your table. Enjoy history, lore, interesting anecdotes, spot-on wine, beer and spirit suggestions along with supportive tips.

The easy yet elegant recipes and dreamy photography means everyone can “play.” Chances are you have almost all the ingredients already in your fridge or nearby at your farmers market or local supermarket. Ingredients can be swapped out for those you prefer.  Hate onions?  That’s fine.  Like veggies? Go ahead, add more. The only thing you will want to try at least once is her bread recommendations.  They are what makes this book so different from others we have read on the same subject.

We think this book makes an outstanding gift for anyone who loves comfort in a well-chosen slice of bread. As we mention above, it’s the bread recommendations that set this book apart from others. Add a loaf of bread suggested in the book, some interesting cheese and a nice beer or wine and you have the perfect hostess gift. Just sayin’.

In this book you will capture the essence of Russia, the West, Germany, Spain, Scandinavia, France and Italy.  If you’re a traveler you’ll recognize some of the best sandwiches you’ve tasted abroad. You’ll also likely have that “AHA!” moment when you begin to understand the first step to authenticity is the bread.  Who knew?

Be inspired with international sandwich tastes like:

  • Lentil and Sausage Salad from France
  • Dried Fig Jam, Pancetta and Gorgonzola Dolce from Italy
  • Tortilla Espanola with Romesco Sauce from Spain
  • The Hot Brown from the West.

Enjoy a taste of this book with the open-faced sandwich recipe (pg. 66) for Montaditos of Jamón Serrano, Manchego Cheese, Quince Paste, and Spanish Mayonnaise. It was a WOW for us.  We hope your experience goes the same for you.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “open-faced sandwich” I immediately see a gravy-soaked piece of white sandwich bread with roast beef or turkey poured on top. But the fresh Avocado toasty bread treat on the cover of Karen Kaplan’s OPEN FACED guide to “Single-Slice Sandwiches from Around the World” caught my attention so I dove in and discovered it’s time for me/us to break any lingering childhood diner memories of those soggy sandwiches.

Photo by A. Morrison

Karen’s writing style is light, she makes sense, and if you’re not quite ready to make a trip around the world, start here with a culinary adventure. Track down the recommended bread, cheeses, and other ingredients then make your “open face” experience complete by serving the suggested wine pairing. You’ll be inspired to create a whole new set of taste memories with Karen’s creative yet simple recipes and you’ll have no doubts that food and wine can transport you even while you’re at home.

How? Want to visit France, then choose a Tartines recipe. Do you know where you’ll find Butterbrote and Butterbrodi? How about Montaditos or Smorrebrod? Karen sets the mood for taste adventure with her personal recipe introductions and enough delicious looking photos to keep your interest. World travelers, don’t you wish you could recreate that Spanish Mayonnaise you had at that tapas bar in Spain? You can. Wine lovers—see if you agree with Karen’s pairing recommendations then report back—we’d love to hear from you.

This book makes a great gift. I notice instead of a German lager with Chicken Schnitzel, Karen suggests a “spicy red wine such as a Tempranillo from Spain or Sangiovese from Italy.” Put the book and wines into a basket—hint you LOVE Schnitzel. I bet you’ll get an invitation to taste Schnitzel, open-faced style. Be sure to arrive with a German lager because, “Isn’t it best with Schnitzel?” Well, we’ll see.

If you prefer e-books, Amazon offers the Kindle version for $13.26 as of this writing, but Google Play Books has it for $9.99. I admit I didn’t know it existed. What I like about Google Play is you can see a sample of the book before you buy. And, their search feature allows you to enter ingredients or beverages you have on hand, then select recipes, rather than the traditional other-way-around. Also, it’s user-friendly, nice looking, and might be my new favorite way to collect e-cookbooks.

Talk about “armchair” travel for the foodie.  This has to be the best of the best when you’re ready to travel vicariously sampling global sandwich faire.  Don’t think for one moment you won’t be able to find the ingredients or be able to follow along with the 65 recipes.  It’s all stuff you already have in your house or at a market of your choice.  In many cases, its sandwiches you have had before – just called by a different name and identified by the region it originated in. BUT BUT BUT…the key to “sublime” is getting the bread right.

I now understand why when I make the foods I loved on my international travels, they never quite seemed to make the taste grade.  It was the authentic bread and likely the cheese too that was missing. Really, I had no idea. I should have taken notes. Bread is bread, right?  No so much. Same with the cheese.  On your first try with any of the recipes, make sure you source the suggested bread and cheese.  It may take a Google effort to find out who makes which breads, but your rewards will outweigh the yummy outcome.

About the author
Karen Kaplan is a freelance writer, radio host, consultant editor, translator and recipe developer. She has taught at both USC and UCLA and contributed to several cookbooks. She worked at Bon Appétit magazine for twenty years. She has also been a culinary consultant for two Food Network shows: Extreme Chef and Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell. Karen was also the restaurant critic for LA Weekly for seven years and produced her own food-based radio show in Santa Monica.


Montaditos of Jamón Serrano, Manchego Cheese, Quince Paste, and Spanish Mayonnaise
Courtesy of Author Karen Kaplan

At any tapas bar in Spain, you are sure to find Manchego cheese and Jamón Serrano, two of the country’s best culinary products. Manchego, a cured sheep’s milk cheese, comes from the central plains of La Mancha and is made the same way now as it has been for centuries. It has a unique flavor, a firm consistency, and a texture that is both butter and lacy. (It is easy to find, but do not confuse it with Mexican Manchego, which is more like Jack cheese and made for melting, which Spanish Manchego is not.) In Spain, Manchego is most popular eaten sliced or cubed and is often served with quince paste, known as dulce de membrillo. Quince is a bright golden-yellow fruit that looks like the not-so-genetically blessed offspring of an apple and a pear. It is super tart when eaten raw, but mellows lusciously when cooked. It is most often offered as a sweet jellied paste, which is available in most cheese stores and many supermarkets. Jamón Serrano is a type of dry-aged Spanish ham that is produced throughout Spain, where it has been made since Roman times, if not before. Cured for at least a year, it ends up with a deeper color and firmer texture than its kissing cousin, prosciutto. I put that famous troika together with a mayonnaise I created that combines more of Spain’s exports: sherry vinegar and pimentón. Pour a sturdy white Rioja or Godello from Galicia.

Makes 4 Montaditos

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 ½ teaspoons sherry vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon (or more) sweet or spicy pimentón, or paprika

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 large, thick slices country bread

4 large, crisp Romaine lettuce leaves

8 very thin slices quince paste

16 thin shavings Spanish Manchego cheese (use a cheese shaver)

8 thin slices Jamón Serrano

Place mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl and stir to blend well. Stir in ¼ teaspoon pimentón, adding more if desired. Season Spanish mayonnaise with salt and pepper.

Grill, broil, or toast bread. Arrange toasts on platter or individual plates. Divide Spanish mayonnaise evenly among toasts. Top each toast with 1 lettuce leaf and 2 slices quince paste. Cover each with 4 Manchego cheese shavings and top with 2 slices jamón. Serve immediately.
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Note:  A copy of this book was provided to Adrianne and Linda for review purposes.

Single-Slice Sandwiches from Around the World
Author: Karen Kaplan
Hardcover: 128 pages
Publisher: Gibbs Smith (August 1, 2017)



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