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MARGARET PROUSE: 'All about sandwiches'

“Anytime is Sandwich Time”, say some cooks.
“Anytime is Sandwich Time”, say some cooks.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Having had minimal interest in cute little tea sandwiches earlier in my life, I decided it was time to learn this summer.  

I suppose that hearing about afternoon tea at Dalvay piqued my interest. When the call went out for someone to make ribbon sandwiches for an event at my church, I raised my hand. “I’ll do it”, I said.

Not wanting to send substandard treats for the party, I sought enlightenment from a 1973 Agriculture Canada publication, “All About Sandwiches”, and a Bakery Foods Foundation of Canada booklet, “Anytime is Sandwich Time”, of about the same vintage. Then I did a practice run to see if I could take any shortcuts, and I learned several things.

First, the chunks of food in the fillings must be chopped fine. The ham salad filling I made was too chunky and crumbled apart when the test sandwiches were cut into ribbons.  

Second, allow enough time to follow instructions. Thinking I might be able to take a shortcut, I ignored the advice in the publications about allowing the sandwiches to chill in the refrigerator for several hours before cutting them. The layers of the hurried-up ribbon sandwiches tumbled apart when cut, and separated layers could mess up a sandwich tray in a hurry.

It’s the lesson that I always resist, and it seems to apply to everything I want to do: plan ahead and allow enough time to do the job properly. It takes just as long to make the sandwiches at the last minute, but the results aren’t as good.

After my trial run, here’s how I made two loaves of ribbon sandwiches, using one unsliced loaf of white bread and one of whole wheat.

Using an electric knife, I sliced the crusts from the loaves, trimmed the loaves so that they were approximately the same size, and cut each loaf, lengthwise, into 4 layers. Then I reassembled the layers to make 2 loaves with alternating bands of white and whole wheat bread.

Each layer was spread with butter to prevent the bread from getting soggy, and then the fillings were added. The loaves each had a layer of egg salad, a layer of herb and garlic cream cheese and a layer of ham salad.

After pressing the layers of the loaves firmly together, wrapping in a lightly dampened tea towel to keep them moist, placing in a plastic bag, and then refrigerating the whole package topped with a light weight (a small tray topped by cans of evaporated milk), I left them to chill overnight.

I worried a little that the sandwiches wouldn’t present well, but the next morning, when I unwrapped and cut them into slices ½ inch thick and half the width of the loaf, the sandwiches stayed intact. Whew!

Now, just to add some balance, I’ll tell you about a sandwich that I consider the opposite of fancy tea sandwiches.

The Reuben sandwich, made by layering corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on sourdough rye bread, is a classic. When inquiring about some Island-made tempeh (a fermented soy product) at the Farmer’s Market, I learned about a vegetarian version of the Reuben sandwich that I’ve been enjoying since then. I’m told there are hundreds of recipes: here’s my version of the one in my Moosewood cookbook.

Tempeh Reuben

Adapted from The Moosewood Collective: “New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant”. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 1987.

25 mL (2 tbsp)          vegetable oil

250 mL (1 cup) chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

120 g (4 oz) tempeh, thinly sliced or cubed

5 mL (1 tsp) soy sauce

2 slices bread, preferably rye, toasted

about 50 mL (¼ cup) Russian dressing

175 mL (¾ cup) sauerkraut, warmed

175-250 mL (¾-1 cup) grated Swiss cheese

Sauté the onions and garlic in oil for 2 or 3 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add the tempeh and continue to cook on low heat, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes.  When the tempeh is browning, get the remaining ingredients ready. When the tempeh is crisp and lightly browned, add the soy sauce.

Build the sandwiches on the toast by layering the tempeh mixture, Russian dressing, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese.

Broil until the cheese is melted. Serve hot.

Makes 2 (open face) sandwiches

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at


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