Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Allergy-Free Tea Sandwiches
Classic tea sandwiches generally consist of thinly-sliced white bread (no crusts, please!), a butter-based or cream-cheese-based spread and some finely chopped flavorings like watercress, cucumbers, chicken salad, egg salad, or the like. If you take away all the allergens in these tiny bites of loveliness, all you are left with is a few raw vegetables! What's a tea-lover to do?
I attacked this earth-shaking problem one element at a time. The white bread was easily dealt with by substituting white rice bread. Although it's relatively bland, it's extremely firm, which keeps the fillings from making the sandwich too soggy. If you don't care for the taste, try toasting it -- that brings out a bit more flavor. Now that we're gluten free, onward to....
The spread ... my next hurdle. Butter and cream cheese are out for our dairy-free, mostly vegan family, so I searched my pantry and fridge for some other kind of base... something that would function to bind my flavors together. To my surprise, I actually found several good options! For my savory sandwiches, mashed potatoes made with oil worked amazingly well, and for my sweeter sandwiches I found mashed bananas a wonderful starting point. Avocado can also work, although its tendency to brown so quickly makes it hard to work with.
Now I could have some fun with flavor! By starting with classic tea sandwich recipes and mixing in some extra items for kick, I was able to brainstorm over a dozen allergy-free sandwich versions... far more than I thought I would!
The traditional cucumber sandwich came together with a thin layer of mashed potato mixed with lots of salt, minced garlic, dill and chives. The thinly-sliced cucumbers layered nicely on top, and when I sliced the sandwich, it looked exactly like it should have. The boys tasted it and I had to laugh when my oldest, who doesn't much care for cucumber sandwiches, said diplomatically, "Well, it tastes just like a tea sandwich!"
A watercress sandwich can be built in a similar manner, starting with potatoes mashed with oil, salt, parsley, watercress or arugula, and some finely shredded carrot.
Longing for a curried chicken sandwich? Leave larger chunks in your mashed potatoes, mix with curry powder, salt and pepper, minced celery, and nuts or raisins to your own taste.
Traditional radish sandwiches are also a breeze -- just potatoes, lots of black pepper, and thinly sliced radishes. Try some paper-thin raw onion slices as well, if you're brave.
How about something completely fresh and different? My new favorite British chef, the incomparable Lotte Duncan, features a fun potato mash made with fresh peas and mint in her new cookbook, Lotte's Country Kitchen. Smush it all together with some oil and salt, and that's all you need!
Sweet sandwiches are easy to brainstorm as well. Starting with mashed banana, you can add coconut, mango, berries, SunButter, jelly, maple cream, honey, or even rose petals. Eat these quickly before the bananas turn brown.
A wonderful avocado sandwich can be made by mashing together avocado, lime juice, salt, cilantro and chopped tomatoes. Another variation on the tomato sandwich can include potato, tomato, lemon juice, garlic and basil.
And my favorite sandwich of all, a version of a James Beard classic featuring caramelized onions, mashed potato, and parsley, rolled in some chopped chives so the edges are green. Yum!
In the photo above are radish sandwiches on top, cucumber sandwiches on the left and banana raspberry sandwiches on the right.
Have you given up tea sandwiches since you began eating allergy-free? What other types can you brainstorm? Let's hear from you!
Shared with Tea Time Tuesday at Rose Tree Cottage and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free and Tea Party Tuesday at Sweetology and A Return to Loveliness at A Delightsome Life and Tuesday Tea for Two at The Plumed Pen and Tabletop Tuesday at A Stroll Through Life and Tea Time Tuesday at Lady Katherine Tea Parlor and Whatever You Want Wednesday at Free Pretty Things for You.