Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Out to Lunch

With another nod to the Back to School theme I've at least briefly established, you'll want to be sure you aren't drinking anything when you go check out the list of The Ten Worst Lunch Boxes Ever. Or at least cover your keyboard with a plastic protector or something to prevent laugh/spew collateral damage. Seriously - you've been warned.

While we didn't have the following featured recipe for lunch, school or otherwise, sandwiches and more lunchy type items have been high on the dinner list around here lately. One reason is the continuing heat but we are all bored hearing about that, so we'll move to reason number two.

I have been seized with some sort of organizing bug of late and have actually cleared three areas in our house that had been suffering from Any Way You Want It, Here's the Place to Leave It syndrome for some time(read:a decade).

After spending hours attempting to sort through the accumulated cast offs of four people over a span of several years, by the time it got anywhere close to needing dinner I'd have worn myself out, what with all that cleaning and sorting and stopping to reminisce and boxing up and hauling off to the Goodwill Store. I made so many trips there I would not have been given a moment's pause to have pulled up to the Goodwill donations area around the back of their outlet to find a reserved spot with my name stenciled in.

Combine all that Sorting Fatigue with my determination to find more ways to work sardines into our menu and it was destiny that the recipe I spotted recently on Serious Eats for Sardine Sandwiches with Tomato Jam and Fresh Cheese would find its way onto our dinner plates in a big hurry.The only catch was the Tomato Jam component. Making that required a little heating up the kitchen and some attention, yes, but seeing as one of the areas I was tackling as part of my Get It Organized efforts was conveniently right off the kitchen, I worked it out.

Sardine Sandwich with Tomato Jam and Fresh Cheese
[Printable recipe here]
- serves 3 -
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 small shallots, minced (onion will do in a pinch)

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

1/4 teaspoon pimentón

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon light brown sugar

1 tin sardines packed in olive oil, about 4 ounces; skinless and boneless preferred

6 slices multigrain sandwich bread

1/4 cup fresh goat cheese, ricotta, or cream cheese

1 packed cup arugula (or mixed greens or baby spinach)

1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, until soft and fragrant, stirring regularly.Add the tomatoes, pimentón, salt, pepper, and sugar. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick and the juices have evaporated. Transfer to a bowl to cool. (This can be prepared up to a day in advance.)2. Drain the sardines and mash roughly with a fork. Slice the crusts off the bread and discard or save for bread crumbs. Toast the slices until golden brown.
3. Build the sandwiches: toast, cheese, tomato jam, sardines, arugula, toast.Use a sharp bread knife to halve diagonally.

Observant readers will note the recipe states this serves three people and there are two sandwiches ready for their top slice of bread on each plate in the photo. My multigrain loaf was a bit on the small side so I actually made four sandwiches with the idea I'd have reruns the next day for lunch. Turns out these were so savory good we ended up eating them all and promised never to tell. (ooops....)These photos, just to belabor the obvious, are of the sandwich prior to the second slice of bread being placed. I briefly thought of eating these open faced, but figured with the arugula on the tomato jam on the cheese that style would be begging for a sliding tectonic plate type disaster of ingredients moving off the bread onto our shirts or laps.

Maybe I was supposed to spread the tomato jam a bit thicker because I have some left over. Fiddlesticks! I'll just have to use it up, like on bruschetta with some goat cheese or something awful like that. Oh the trials of having good food around this very enjoy-it-while-it-lasts, neatly organized house...

Folks, if you are looking for ways to work sardines into your repertoire, this is your deal. The sardines are there, sure, but not in any particularly pushy fishy way. They play very nicely with the other ingredients to present your mouth with a truly blended flavor experience, not just a pile of particular ingredients.

Speaking of playing nicely... I fortunately managed to avoid any of the featured Ten Worst Lunch Boxes Ever disasters growing up. I did have a clear favorite however. My most cherished lunch box, hands down, was also my very first lunch box.Shaped and painted on the outside to look like a barn with an domed "roof", it opened to reveal a thermos painted like a matching grain silo that was clipped snugly into place under the arched top. I thought it was the most cunning thing I'd ever seen. I still do.

I carried that lunchbox for three consecutive years, until the handle tragically broke. I asked for another just like it, but styles had changed and my little barn box had gone out of vogue. I remember keenly mourning the loss. I treasured my clever little red barn lunch box so much. It was vastly superior to any of the pedestrian square lunch boxes that followed.


And you? Do you remember your coolest or most hysterically hideous lunch box ever? Were you secretly cool in public/feverishly adoring in private with any of yours? Did you ever secretly "lose" a particular lunch box preferring plain paper bags to the daily horror of having to produce and eat your lunch out of some terrifying fad? 'Fess up in the comments - we all want to know.


Iris said...

Love you and your lunchbox photo! I feel really senile that I can't remember my lunchboxes. Was I able to talk my mother into buying me the groovy Partridge Family one?

I look forward to trying the sardine recipe--thanks! I've been trying to eat them more often, too.

TexasDeb said...

Iris you will love these sandwiches and fortunately Wheatsville carries everything needed to put them together.

It has been suggested to me that maybe everybody out there isn't/wasn't a total school supplies nerd like I am. That's OK. I'm open minded enough to look past such issues.

Siren said...

The ten worst lunchboxes are hilarious. "I'll give you an apple if you touch my belt" had me rolling.

I agree that your clever barn lunchbox was tops and i wish someone handy had just fixed the handle for you. I had a Care Bears metal lunchbox that i love love loved. It was metal and it had a little metal clip that went "SNAP" when you snapped it shut. I loved that "snap". And you could clank it around. I liked the clankiness of it.

I don't remember why Care Bears stopped being usable but the next lunchbox was plastic and it just was not as good. My Little Pony, I believe. After that, no more lunchboxes. -sigh-

I have dreams of being super great mom and packing darn bento boxes for my kids, whenever I have them. We'll see if that actually comes to pass. Hopefully the kids will think those are cool.

TexasDeb said...

The transition from metal to plastic lunchboxes was the beginning of the end, no question.

Metallic snap! Yes, Ma'am!

Good luck with those future bento boxes. They are totally cool, arent' they!?.... (really - aren't they?)

Marion said...

The history of America could be told on the head of our lunch boxes. It really would make a great book (and you are so very much the writer I'd love to read doing it). I would hope the history would include that brief but vivid period in the late 1960s where some of us decoupaged our otherwise plain black lunchboxes turning them into terribly "mod" purses. Anyone else this old? We loved ours, and carried them everywhere. All very Carnaby Street; all very hip. Oh my.

TexasDeb said...

Oh Marion.... I not only remember said mod purses but took that decoupage fervor one step further, making myself a wooden "laptop desk" covered with totally cool phrases carefully snipped out of Seventeen and Glamour magazines. I think it is still up in a closet, somewhere....

Katie Runnels said...

i love your lunchbox and sweet little self! also-thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! I'm thrilled to know you a little better...i really enjoy your writing! thanks!
ps. i think my favorite was a metal holly hobby number! xo

bee said...

is that little girl you, deb? what a lovely picture!!! i'm still enjoying your fantastic peach jam. i avoid all sugar but that's the one sweet thing i treat myself to.

Ribambins said...


I would like to write a short post about american barns and how they impacted daily lives. I was looking for barn lunch boxes pictures when I bumped into your photo and your story. They are so lovely. Would you allow me to use them? That would be really kind of you . And since it is the begining of the year, happy new year!

texasdeb said...

Ribambins: Don't see a way to get in touch with you directly on your blog. You may use the photo but please link to the post and cite where you found it.

Thank you! /AustinAgrodolce

Ribambins said...

the same way I did here, just post a comment ;-).
Sure I will, I always do.
Enjoy the week end. Thanks a lot!