Our latest contest theme “Your Best Dish Disguised as a Sandwich” challenged our talented and creative Food52 community to take their favorite dish and turn it into a hand-held meal. This was no small feat but the community was certainly up to the challenge and the entries did not disappoint.
We tested and tasted our way through a global array of sandwiches and we were able to narrow it down to two: an elegant Shrimp Francese Sandwich featuring a delicious and spicy tomato and hot cherry pepper bruschetta topping with gooey cheese from Daddy_Chef_DoDoDoDoDoDo’s and a delightfully layered, flavor-packed Spicy Salmon “Bento” Bagel Sandwich with Cucumber Salad, a playful take on the very popular bento box from Joni Goldbach.
Thank you once again to our community who cast their votes to help us decide on a winning sandwich. The community has spoken and we have a winner, cue the drumroll……
Spicy Smoked Salmon “Bento” Bagel Sandwich with Cucumber Salad
Congratulations Joni, your sandwich was loved by all!! We are excited to learn more about you and your winning recipe in the Q&A below. We want to congratulate the runner up Daddy_chef_DoDoDoDoDoDo whose Shrimp Francese Sandwich was absolutely delicious!
What’s your least favorite food?
Meat — I’ve never enjoyed eating it, and I really dislike cooking it. The running joke in my family was that my next younger brother and I ate a full meal between us. He would eat the meat, and I would eat everything else. I just find meats rather bland and unappealing compared to the world of flavors available through other foods. If I cook something meaty for you, consider it a sign that I REALLY like you.
The notable exception is that I’ve grown into enjoying some fish and shellfish thanks to some really wonderful fishmongers, chefs and educators. Now my husband and I will buy a pound of fish to smoke and nibble for lunch during the week, or the occasional bag of mussels, branzino, or oysters for a special occasion.
I could be convinced to change my mind.
What is the best thing you’ve made so far this year?
One thing that has been so delicious that I’ve been making on repeat this year is ricotta gnudi. They are these balls of pasta that are a bit like gnocchi and ravioli had the most delicious, tender pasta baby. Making them is a bit of a project, but really high impact for the level of effort. They keep nicely in the freezer to boil up for a quick dinner when I can’t be bothered to figure out what to make! And I found they are about the perfect way to use up a surplus of greens and other veggies before they go bad.
So far, the best batch has included tender radish and turnip greens, spinach, parsley, and mushrooms. My mouth is watering just thinking about them topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a shower of Parmesan!
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
Most of my kitchen disasters are pretty silly mistakes, but the ones that really take the cake stem from having lots of enthusiasm and diving in without understanding exactly what I’m getting into. Sometimes an experiment works out really well, and sometimes I wind up with an inedible mess, but I usually learn a ton.
One of my first cooking experiments is a pretty good example. We lived in a neighborhood next to a sugar beet field. After harvest one year, I found a discarded sugar beet. I’d heard that chocolate was made from cacao and sugar, so I assumed that I could figure out how to “cook” the sugar beet with baking cocoa to make chocolate. I asked my Mom to cut the beet in half (I wasn’t allowed to use sharp knives yet.) and lend me cocoa powder and some baking foil. I took all of these over to my friend’s house where we arranged the beet halves on the foil, spooned cocoa powder on top, and waited for them to bake in the sun on the driveway. We waited, and waited, and when nothing seemed to change decided to give our creation a taste. Yuck!
What is your idea of comfort food?
I’ve been embracing the idea recently that cooking for myself and the folks I love can be as, if not more therapeutic than any one particular food. It’s an area of life where it’s relatively simple to focus on getting more of what I need in my life — meditative tasks when I’m feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, opportunities for creativity when I’m feeling unfulfilled in other areas of life, and a way to feed my future self by making things I really enjoy for the week ahead. Cooking is an area of life where I feel I can have some sort of control over the direction (and hopefully the outcome) in a world where so much feels out of control.
I like thinking about how meal planning as an exercise in eliciting a certain mood.
Of course, a hot cup of coffee or tea helps when time and resources don’t allow for more.
Apron or no apron?
Only when I’m making something very messy and I remember. I’m usually too busy dancing in and out of the kitchen to think of it.
What’s your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
I love the Whoville feast scenes in the old animated versions of the Grinch — more for the memories it elicits than anything else. I come from a big family where Thanksgiving and Christmas were key holidays growing up. We’d spend days cooking up our favorite holiday dishes and gather as big, happy group of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and often a few friends. We’d sing before supper, rest and digest for a while, and come back for dessert just before The Grinch aired on TV. Those holiday dinners set the bar for me and in the rose-colored glasses of memory are not dissimilar from the WhovIlle feasts.
Who is someone you’d love to cook for, and why?
Oh, wow! I really can’t choose just one.
In fantasy, I’d love to host a dinner party with women who have made a big impact in my life, living and departed — kind of like the Judy Chicago Dinner Party installation at the Brooklyn Museum, but an actual dinner party. It would be be wonderful to be able to thank them in some small way. The wine would flow and the conversations around the dinner table would be fabulous.
In reality, I’m looking forward to having a chance to cook for my little nieces. The youngest was born just before the pandemic and the oldest was so young the last time we all got together and I had a chance to cook for them. I can’t wait to whip up a few goodies to attempt to delight those little sweethearts!