Dinner @ 226 - Smoked Salmon Sandwiches

There are nights when I don't feel like cooking. I know, it seems unfathomable from a lady who reads cookbooks like novels and proceeds to have dreams about specialty ingredients. Who pins more recipes and food ideas than any other boards combined. A woman who takes 1/2 an hour in the cooking section of the second hand bookstore, and then pours through her findings like they contain a map to a buried treasure. Who could help it when their findings included this book that I've lusted after for at least 717 years!

This no cook thing only happens once in a very long while, but it does happen.

I had such an evening last week. The irony is that I had just returned from the grocery store with nearly $150 worth of groceries and after stuffing them all in the fridge, I looked around and nothing seemed like it would be worth the effort. I didn't have quite enough time to delve into a complicated curry or get tangled up in hours of slicing and stewing. In fact, I didn't even want to turn the oven on. I wanted a dinner that merely had to be assembled, not cooked.

Dinners of assembly don't have to be boring or tasteless.

*happy and stuffed after two sandwiches*

I have a few of them in my repertoire, but this is a new addition and I promise I will be reaching for it often as the weather gets hotter and the pots and pans and burners look less alluring. It was that good.

*Beckett's creation - no tomatoes, please and "I want two tops!" Apparently, open-faced sandwiches are against his religion.*

I've found that interactive dinners like this Spinach Salad Bar invite the kids to assemble what they like and as a result, dinner is fun for them and they eat more. They get to participate and I can really see the little chefs in their heads deciding what would taste best to them. It's super sweet.

Smoke Salmon Sandwiches - serves 4 with a big salad

Assemble the following on a serving platter:

Small package of smoked salmon pieces (mine was 6 ounces)
2 tomatoes - sliced
1/4 a small red onion - very finely sliced
1/2 English cucumber - thinly sliced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (we used roasted & unsalted)
a little salt and a pepper grinder for sprinkling
4 Tbs capers
herbed goat cheese (recipe below)

To make the herbed goat cheese combine the following:
4 oz goat cheese (at room temperature to make it easier to mix)
1 Tbs chopped chives
1 Tbs chopped dill
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste (goat cheese is already pretty salty so go easy on the salt, if you add it at all. we didn't)

Serve the sandwich fillings with 8 slices of *dark rye, slightly warmed and have fun creating the best salmon sandwiches ever, without cooking AT ALL! Don't forget the big green salad with a sliced avocado and lemon garlic vinaigrette.

*If you are gluten free - Trader Joe's carries a fairly delicious rye-less rye. Or just substitute your favorite gluten free bread.

*Mama's creation - everything and open-faced.*


Lunch @ 226 - Lettuce Boats

Now, these right here, are something you're going to crave. It's an odd combination that my dad has been enthusiastic about since I can remember. Lettuce + Peanut Butter. And, truthfully, when my dad is enthusiastic about any food, one wants to keep their distance. After all he is the sole creator behind the ever popular American cheese, pickled jalepeno, mayonnaise, and peanut butter sandwich. Go over those ingredients again. You didn't misread it. Are you feeling nauseous? Yes, me too. Being in the kitchen with my dad is like being in the kitchen with an enthusiastic six-year-old. More is always more, there is no such thing as a strange combination and most importantly, peanut butter goes on everything.

The man also developed an effective hangover cure involving two slices of Wonder Bread, globs of mayonnaise, crunchy iceberg lettuce and a Yoohoo to sip on. There's a very scientific explanation of what each component contributes to nursing your morning time blahs. It's with great shame that I admit, I've tried it. It's with even greater shame that I admit, it really does work. Somehow.

But, while I near 30, I am less interested in seeking out hangover remedies and as all of you know, more interested in healthy, satisfying EATS. And, I've found it here.

While I was putting this unlikely combination together, I thought of him. Dipping the butter knife into his beloved jar of Peter Pan and smearing it on a slice of bread. Then, smearing the opposing slice with another glob of an offensive condiment, usually mayonnaise. Always with the same knife. Cracking off a few leaves of crunchy lettuce and smooshing them down on one half. Then anointing the only vegetable in sight with some form of spice, either hot sauce or jalepenos. Without question, it's time to go to his cheese drawer where he unwraps the Kraft American slices and smooths two onto the non-lettuce half. After the cheese, he brings the two dressed slices together and presses down. Walking away from the open jars and crumbs on the counter, he places the sandwich quickly on the nearest plate or paper towel. He sits down to watch a golf tournament or saunters to the back porch to finish the newspaper. In my head, he's in his Sunday jeans and a raunchy t-shirt he's had since we were in grade school. Usually, sock feet.

While what we eat is at the opposite end of the spectrum, our love for food and the enjoyment and experience therein align. Just as I do, he saves the mess for later, because the feast is foremost. The crumbs and jars can wait.

We made these last week and have had them three times since. They're perfect for lunchboxes. Or do as we did, and have a picnic. They are both fun to eat and so much more interesting than their taco/sandwich cousin. The crunchy Romaine is the perfect vessel for creamy peanut butter with a sweet kick. We piled up cubed cucumbers which added crunch and shredded carrots for extra texture. Roasted peanuts for some salty substance and of course, cilantro. Because I'm an addict. Since; I've played around with avocado, bean sprouts, mushrooms, bell peppers, and as it turns out, you really can't screw this up, though the original is still my favorite. I've even swapped out almond butter for the peanut butter. Still delicious. I've left out the soy sauce. Still delicious. I've added cubed tofu. Still delicious. It has all the qualities of take-out in a healthy handheld package.

They're pretty and complex enough to serve as an adult snack but fun and tasty enough that kids will love them too. They're BOATS. What's not to love? I've found I love them nearly as much as I love the freckle on this one's forehead. The only one he has.

Lettuce Boats - serves 4
8 Romaine leaves, washed
2 T Sweet Chili Sauce
A few drops of Sriracha (optional)
1 T soy sauce
1/2 cup Natural Peanut Butter (or any nut butter)
Any Combination of coarsely shredded or finely chopped vegetables. As I mentioned above, carrots and cucumber are my favorite.
1/4 cup chopped roasted and salted peanuts
handful of cilantro

Lay out your lettuce leaves on a clean surface of serving platter. Using a fork, stir together the sweet chili sauce, Sriracha (if using), soy sauce, and peanut butter in a small bowl. It should have a pasty consistency.

Smear the Romaine leaves with the peanut butter mixture. Try to smear the whole length of the leaf because the sauce is the flavor of the snack. Evenly distribute your chopped and shredded vegetables on the leaves. Top with peanuts and cilantro leaves. Serve with fruit.

These keep in the fridge for a few hours if you're making them in advance. Just add the peanuts right before you serve. They tend to sog up in the fridge.

Eat 'em like tacos and ENJOY!