Sunday, May 15, 2011

cookbook review: Encyclopedia of Sandwiches

I'm a huge fan of Susan Russo's blog, Food Blogga, and when she asked for volunteers to review* her new cookbook, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, I jumped at the chance.

Here's what the publisher says about it:

How do you keep a Dagwood from toppling over? What makes a Po’ Boy so crispy and crunchy? And who was the genius that invented the Fluffernutter? Discover these answers and more in The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches—a chunky little cookbook dedicated to everything between sliced bread.

Author Susan Russo has searched the globe to catalog every sandwich imaginable, providing tried-and-true recipes, tips and tricks, and fascinating regional and historical trivia about the best snack of all time.

Quick how-to instructions will ensure that every Panini is toasted to buttery perfection, every Sloppy Joe is deliciously sloppy, and every Dagwood is stacked to perfection! The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches is essential reading for sandwich connoisseurs everywhere.
Here's what I say about it:

Arranged alphabetically (encyclopedically, if you will) and stuffed with countless sandwich recipes and gorgeous photography, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches is one of the most fun cookbooks I've seen (I'm especially fond of its smallish, square size-- reminiscent of a sandwich). Susan has taken a universal comfort food and celebrated it for 300 pages with trivia and recipes. The best way to read the book is exactly how (nerd alert!) you'd to read an encyclopedia for fun: open to a random page and start flipping.

Susan gives historical trivia and fun facts about lots of the sandwiches, and Food Blogga readers will delight in Susan's familiar writing, which combines humor and cooking tips effortlessly. Matt Armendariz's photography is inspired, making each sandwich into art. Proof of his genius? The part with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (yes, there is an actual printed recipe for it) includes not only a brief history of our beloved PB&J (thanks GIs in WWII for combining your rationed jelly and peanut butter and branding the combo, preesh), but also an absolutely gorgeous photograph of two pieces of white bread, peanut butter, and grape jelly. Looking through this book had me wondering if they were going to sell prints of the sandwich photos-- I want several, hanging in my kitchen.

I had a hard time choosing which sandwich to make for this review. Full disclosure: I really, really wanted to make the pound cake sandwich, "made by buttering and grilling two thick slabs of cake and sandwiching sweet ingredients, including whipped cream, fruity cream cheese and melted chocolate," but that didn't seem like a smart choice for dinner on Wednesday. I went with the Italian Tuna Salad Sandwich. The reasons are twofold:

1. I love tuna salad when it doesn't have mayonnaise.
2. I love saying tuna salad because it always, always reminds me of Leonardo the Terrible Monster, who wants nothing more than to scare the tuna salad out of someone.

According to Susan, "An Italian Tuna Salad Sandwich is distinct from a traditional American Tuna Salad Sandwich in several ways. It uses imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil but forgoes the mayo. Popular garnishes include celery, olives, capers, and roasted red peppers. And it's served on any crusty Italian bread."

Confession: I made wraps instead of sandwiches. Don't judge me! I had wraps in the fridge and didn't feel like going to the store just for bread.

The tuna salad is a lovely combination of tuna, a shallot, celery, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, capers, fresh parsley and basil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil. As you'd expect with most sandwich recipes, this came together in a snap.

Please please please get Susan's book and appreciate Matt's photography of the tuna salad. My wrap photes don't do it any justice.
Edwin and I really enjoyed our wraps. While EDW definitely prefers tuna salad with mayo, I loooooove it without, and this is hands down the best tuna salad I've had.
Although I adore reading The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches, it's not actually a cookbook I see myself using often because I almost never make sandwiches at home. The reasons are twofold:

1. When I cook, I want to have leftovers. Lots and lots of leftovers. Sandwiches don't equal leftovers.
2. When I want a sandwich, I want someone else to make it. Everyone knows the best sandwich is the one you don't have to make yourself.

You should check out The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches and make me some sandwiches. Besides the pound cake sandwich, I'd happily accept the falafel pita, the grilled portobello sandwich, the Elvis (aka grilled peanut butter, banana, and bacon), or the salmon sandwich. Thank you in advance.

*I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purchases but was not paid. All opinions are my own.

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