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New Sandwiches & Back-to-School

It’s that time of year, when kids all over go back to school. It’s the time of year for new clothes, anxious bus stop waits, and bagged lunches. I tried to think back at the lunches that were packed for me, and sadly, I couldn’t remember. Were they that unremarkable? I think I had a ‘Garfield’ lunchbox.

Fast forward a few decades. I still have a bagged lunch. This time, I make them myself. I pack lunches for work because I’d rather have good, inexpensive, homemade lunches than whatever fast-food restaurant lingers near my workplace. Many times, my lunches consist of leftovers, with each little component packed neatly in individual containers. You should see some of the little spreads I create. Hot and cold courses separated. Condiments at the ready. Dressings in their own little jars. Real utensils.

Sometimes, I just have a sandwich.

I made this chicken specifically to make into sandwiches. I’m adding more Middle Eastern-inspired flavors into my repertoire. I’m enjoying the unusual combinations of spices and ingredients. Well, unusual for the average American. The Middle East is an area of interest, one that could take up a post all by itself. In the meantime, I will share this little bit with you. (Stay tuned at the end of the post. I’ll share a few more favorite sandwich creations)

Chicken Doner from the wok

Adapted from Oriental Basics

For the meat:

  • 1 1/2 lb chicken cutlets
  • 2 stalks mint
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tsp each sweet paprika, ground cumin, & ground corriander
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper

For the topping:

  • 1 small cucumber (less than 1/2 lb)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 sweet onions, sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 4-8 lettuce leaves
  • sesame buns or small pitas (I only had French bread)
Inspired lunch

Inspired lunch

1. Cut the meat into thin strips. Wash and dry the mint, then finely chop. Peel the garlic and chop very fine with onion in a food processor. (Alternately, finely chop garlic, and grate onion.)

2. Combine spices with the oil, mint, garlic and onion, and stir well. Stir in meat strips and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and chill in the fridge at least 4 hours, occasionally stirring.

3. To make the topping, peel cucumber then halve lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Finely grate the cucumber. Peel and crush the garlic clove, then add to the yogurt. Stir in the cucumber, then season with salt and pepper.

4. Preheat a wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat. Cook the meat strips in two portions, without oil, and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Keep cooked meat warm on a covered plate while cooking remaining meat.

5. Divide chicken between buns or pitas. Top with yogurt mixture, lettuce, tomato and onion.

More favorite sandwiches:

Roast beef, sharp cheddar & horseradish on sourdough

Roast beef, crumbled blue cheese, lettuce & tomato, oil & vinegar, on French bread (steak house salad on bread!)

Ham, brie, tart apples & Dijon on a baguette

Ham, Swiss or brie & chutney on Sourdough

Roast chicken, goat cheese & oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes on a baguette

Roast chicken, goat cheese & chutney on French.

Wrapped in waxed paper, these pack well for a out-of-the-ordinary office lunch.

Chicken Adobo Tacos, and a confession.

Ford Island

OK. I have a confession to make. I lived in Hawai’i for almost 3 years…and hated it. Well, not completely, but mostly. The reasons are too numerous to list here, but I will tell you that the tropical heat and humidity topped the list. There were a few things I miss about the place. Ford Island, where I lived. For those of you who know your history, that is the site of the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. I love that era, so walking among American history every day was a privilege and a thrill. I was a 5 minute walk from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. I could still make out the strafe marks on the runway made by Japanese bullets. I worked in a building that suffered slight shrapnel damage from a bomb. I was also a short drive from many other historical site on the island. A little Territorial Airwaves and I could almost imagine being there…

Strafe marks from 1941

As you can imagine, I also miss some of the food. I will occasionally make myself the parts of plate lunches I miss: loco moco, chicken katsu, or teri beef. Piled on a scoop of rice, all that’s missing is mac salad. And what about haupia, Dixie’s pineapple sour cream pie, or mochi ice cream? Oh, what I would do for a Leonard’s malasada! And I miss Filipino food. Pancit, lumpia, adobo. Ubiquitous when one thinks of Filipino food, but for a reason. The stuff is good. I used to be a Navy wife, so I lived and worked around a lot of Filipinos. I could get my fill any time a gathering took place.

Now I am in western Ohio. Not a huge Filipino population around here. Not much of anything around here. So I finally broke down and decided to make one of my Filipino favorites: chicken adobo. Chicken adobo is vinegary, sweet and salty. It’s often braised in a simple marinade and served over rice. I have no rice. So I made tacos. A bit of a twist on the classic, but with that same taste I remember. I think I hear a slack-key in the distance…

Chicken Adobo Tacos

adapted from FilipinoFoodsRecipes.com

  • 2 lb chicken pieces (I used thighs)
  • 1 head garlic, coarsely chopped (yep, the whole thing)
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 c vinegar
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c chicken broth
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cabbage slaw (technique below)
  • 6 in. flour tortillas

Put vinegar, soy sauce, water, broth, pepper and bay leaves in a heavy bottom pot. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic until just brown and, with a slotted spoon, remove to pot of marinade.  In the same skillet, turn the heat to medium-high and brown the chicken pieces, 5 minutes on each side. Stir the brown sugar into the pot of marinade. Place chicken pieces in the pot and simmer, partly covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Set chicken aside to cool. Strain the solids out of the sauce and discard.

Meanwhile, make a simple cabbage slaw: toss 1/4 head of finely shredded cabbage with 5-6 shredded radishes and 3 sliced scallions. Sprinkle in 1 tsp sugar. Toss with 2 Tbsp rice vinegar and just enough mayonnaise to hold together.

Yum!

Shred chicken meat and place in a bowl with just enough sauce to moisten. (I boiled the sauce a little to reduce it.) Place about 1/4 c each chicken and slaw in the center of a warmed tortilla. Turn on some vintage hula music and enjoy.