The Man Sandwich : A Tempting July 4th Feast

{photo by Sara Remington}

My baby brother is a serious gardener. He credits me as inspiration (and I humbly accept) though he and his fiancé have far surpassed my own meager harvest at TK Farms {Tim + Karen Farms}, their sizable community plot in their burb outside of Chicago.

This week, I was home with my family. Mom, Greta and I made our annual trip to her farmers market. There we met Farmer Nick the meat man, who spends Wednesday mornings at mom’s market, and the afternoon 45 miles away at Tims farmer's market in Grayslake.

I think you know my brother, I said to Nick, and told him his name.

“Tim? Yes, Mr. Rib eye!

Yep, thats him. A good old-fashioned, steak-eating Midwestern boy. My brother. And though there hasnt been a steak in my household since just about the day I wed, my bro and I have a lot in common in the food department. For starters, we both love a summer supper that starts in the garden and is served right off the grill.

My bros garden has a hefty head start on mine, and hes already got a bumper crop of the ever-prolific zucchini. So, I thought it was high time to remind him and all the other grill and garden lovers out there about this summer sandwich I dreamed up with you all in mind. Its got a flavor and a name Im mighty proud of, and is as worthy of a slot on your July 4th roster as anything I know. 

The Man Sandwich is made with grilled purple onions, zucchini and merguez, a spicy lamb sausage from North Africa, but its just as good with any freshly made spicy sausage you can get your hands on. It turns out Farmer Nick has some pretty kickin sausages too, so I think we all know whats on Tim's menu for the fourth.

Baby bro, this ones for you.

P.S. {Make it Meatless}
For the Mostly Vegetarian crowd, we make a meatless version with grilled portabella, Muenster cheese and double doses of zucchini and onion. De-lish! Don't miss this one...


The Man Sandwich

In the middle of July, the prolific garden zucchini/courgette beg your creativity. Turn its bounty into a man-sized sandwich grilled alongside a coil of spicy sausage and sweet spring onions. Stack the three together into a hearty sandwich that’s a summer meal in every bite. This is guy food at its delicious best.

Serves 2
12-ounce/340 g coil spicy beef or lamb sausage such as merguez, or spicy Italian sausage
1 large zucchini cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 spring {bulb} onions, thickly sliced
1/4 cup/60 ml extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices whole-wheat or seven-grain sandwich bread
Herb Mayo {see below}

Preheat the grill or a grill pan until hot. Lay the sausage on the hottest part of the grill and cook until crisp, about 6 minutes. Turn the sausage and grill until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of sausage. Remove to a platter to rest.

Meanwhile, drizzle the zucchini and onion slices with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.

While the sausage cooks on the second side, add the vegetables to the grill. Cook until crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 4 minutes per side. Add the bread to the grill about 2 minutes before veggies are finished and toast on both sides.

Spread Herb Mayo on 2 slices of grilled bread. Slice the sausages and divide sausage and grilled veggies between the 2 sandwiches. Top with remaining bread. Serve warm with lots of napkins.


Herb Mayo

Life really picks up when you add this green mayo to sandwiches and serve it as a dipping sauce for fries or fresh veggies. Its green comes from fresh herbs {use your favorites, in any combination} and its body from Greek yogurt, with a touch of a store-bought mayo for creamy sweetness.

Makes about 1 cup/240 ml

1 packed cup parsley, dill, mint, basil, or chives leaves, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup/75 ml Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons/45 ml olive-oil mayonnaise or regular mayonnaise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Blend herbs, yogurt, mayo, and olive oil, in a mini food processor or blender until smooth and flecked with green. Pulse in lemon juice, adding just enough to give it the right balance for you. Taste and season with salt and pepper.


{fresh} Watermelon, Pistachio & Baby Greens Salad

It's wicked hot here, and there's only one thing on my mind. Watermelon. Sometimes you want a slice pure and simple, but when its this hot, it's tempting to make watermelon into a meal. I recommend you do. Normally, goat cheese isn't my go-to for a salad, but Selles-sur-Cher, with its musty blue-grey mold is the perfect ashy, tangy compliment to the sweet crunch of melon and young butter lettuce. Since most arugula can't take the heat of high summer, tonight's the perfect night to pick the last of yours, toss it together with your homegrown mint, crisp watermelon, goats' cheese and pistachios. While it's all crisp and cool, pour a glass of Tavel rosé {here's my new favorite} and let summer begin. 

Watermelon, Pistachio & Baby Greens Salad

Serves 2 to 4

2 small heads butter lettuce, torn
Heaping handful of young arugula/rocket
Heaping handful of mâche, purslane, or watercress
1/2 medium seedless watermelon (about 4 lb/1.8 kg), cut in wedges and rind removed
1 small handful fresh chocolate mint, peppermint, or spearmint leaves, torn
1 tsp snipped fresh chives
Coarse white, grey, or pink sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 4 oz/55 to 115 g tangy goat cheese, such as Selles-sur-Cher or Crottin if available, at room temperature

Divide the butter lettuce between two or four dinner plates or one large platter. Distribute the arugula/rocket and mâche between the plates, then arrange watermelon wedges on each plate. Garnish all the salads with torn mint and chives, and season liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle with your finest extra-virgin olive oil and top with pieces of fresh goat cheese. Serve straight from the garden, or crisp and cold from the fridge. 


The Constant Gardener {5 Tricks for Gardening with Toddlers}

This summer, Greta has been my constant companion in the garden. At 19-months, an age of mimic mastery, toddlers are a captive audience to learn to love gardening and the time you spend with them there.

This weekend, when planting tomatoes, Andras dug our holes and Greta and I set the plants deep into the soil, pressing and patting the soil all around them. When I plucked off the lowest shoots or branches, which encourages tomatoes to grow strong and tall, Greta plucked a few (too many) more shoots right off the plant. Oops! But, well done, I had to say. She's a quick learner. The tomatoes will surely survive, and more importantly, Greta is learning how to create and grow something that makes our life richer, healthier and more delicious.

Last year, I posted an article about gardening with babes on Mothering.com. And later, a confession about life in the weeds. Now with a very active toddler, gardening together is more fun than ever before. It's so hilarious to watch Greta march right in with her shovel and rake and get to work.  While it's difficult to explain why we can touch and pick some plants (arugula leaves), and not others (strawberry leaves), for the most part, it's an a peaceful, playful place to be together, and one of constant learning.

I've gone back to revisit my tips with with another year under my mamma gardening belt. Here are my thoughts for Gardening with Toddlers:

Dress the Part: We have boxes of hand-me-downs that get a booking every time we head out to the garden. Dress up in things you don't care about getting soiled since water + soil can lead to one messy babe. That, and the snuggly summer baths afterward, are half the fun.

Say Yes: I love the idea of neat rows of greens and radishes, but I don't want the garden to be a place where I have to use the word "no." So, after planting (and letting go of the ideal of perfect rows), we keep our distance from that portion of the garden until enough shoots are sturdy enough to handle toddler touches. That means planting our way to new corners of the garden until our starting point is deeply rooted, and practicing saying yes when your toddler wants to taste and try, even if it has a ways to grow.

Row By Row: Just like with art projects and games, toddlers do best by tackling small garden projects at a time. We plant two herbs in one morning. One berry bush the next. Six tomato plants the next. When her friends were over this spring--we planted a potato patch, assigning a row of potatoes (easy for toddlers to handle and plant) to each little one, and let them color and mark their row with their own bamboo posts. This gives toddlers small projects to tackle and conquer, and when greens start popping up week by week, there's quicker gratification.

Let them Own It! Since I knew not all the tomatoes (and other fragile seedlings) might survive curious Greta, we planted six Mamma's tomatoes in our raised beds and two Greta's Tomatoes in small but sturdy containers (paper ones that can eventually be planted right into the ground) that she can transport to and from in her wagon, carry back and forth from one side of the garden to another or tip upside down. We practice being gentle with all the baby tomatoes, but we won't sweat it if Greta's Tomatoes don't make it, and can easily replace her tiny pots with something new.

Touch + Taste:  It's much, much easier to get Greta to eat greens in the garden, right out of the ground, then it is at the table. Now that she plenty of teeth for chewing the cud, she's happy to pluck and taste arugula, mustard greens and fresh snap peas right off the vine with no other favorite foods (yogurt, berries, bananas) to distract her. I almost always get a "yummy!", and a "more?" from every bite, which makes me one proud mamma.

Mommies and garden gurus, I'd love to hear from you. What tips or tricks do you have for making the garden a play place for your babes and tots?


The Barn

{photo by lily odare}

This week I've disappeared to one of my favorite places on earth -- to the cool shelter of the little barn that lured Andras and I to our house in Hurley, NY about this time two years ago. We've put endless hours of work into the house and yard, and it finally, magically feels like home. We escape the city to swing in the hammock under the old apple tree as often as we can, but this week I'm here without Greta and Andras and instead with a team of five amazing creative and dedicated gals shooting my new book, Mostly Vegetarian. 

I couldn't think of a more peaceful place to turn a year's worth of writing and recipes into beautiful, artful images to fill the pages of the book. Behind the lens is Yunhee Kim, one of the most talented, masterful photographers I know. There we are, crouched in the even afternoon light that floods the barn floor as I style, and she shoots platefuls of my favorite foods. We're wrapping this half of the shoot tomorrow, and after I put up my feet and rest a wee bit, I'll be back with more. 


{date night} happy birthday dream guy

Recently, Andras and I revived our Friday night date night tradition, something hard to do once you find out how much fun it is to be three. I hired a babysitter, put on high heels and my favorite jeans and met him out on the town. We ordered beer and too much food an had a real, grown-up conversation, looking in each other's eyes. I was giddy.

And then the wild mushroom toast arrived. It was luscious, fragrant of every seductive savory note. Except the mushrooms looked suspiciously like button mushrooms. I like button mushrooms, but I was dreaming of something a little more exotic. I hesitated, and Andras saw that look in my eye.

"They shouldn't call it wild mushroom toast if they aren't using wild mushrooms," I said.

"It doesn't matter love, it's delicious." he said. Always one to defend, never to judge. "And besides, its not about the mushrooms. Tonight is about us."

And then he slipped out to the men's room.

When he got back, he noticed my sheepish look.

"What happened?"

"The waiter and I got in a friendly conversation about the mushrooms."

"You did? How did it go?"

"I just told him that button mushrooms aren't wild mushrooms. I couldn't help myself."

But it turns out it was so delicious we couldn't have stopped ourselves from eating it all even if the restaurant had advertised the dish as golden mushrooms. And, more importantly, I was eating it across the table from my dream guy, so who cares, really, what kind of mushrooms they were. Thats the thing Andras has always known, and I've had to learn.

Today is Andras' birthday, and Greta and I are both taking him out on the town. And from my subway ride to meet them, I can't help but think how lucky I am to have the chance to love a man who doesn't care about the silly details, only the smart ones. A man who assumes the best of everyone, and especially me, even when I don't deserve it. I couldn't be more grateful for all the date nights we've had, and all the ones we haven't since we decided to share our lives with this little girl. And I couldn't be happier to be celebrating the day he was born.

Tonight, it would be just fine if our restaurant serves us button mushrooms, or premade pudding in plastic cups...Tonight is about this great man I love.

Happy birthday, baby.
My photo
New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.