Sunday, 28 August 2016

Stellar Sandwiches for Funeral Feasts

Anyone who's ever attended a funeral buffet will undoubtedly remember the sandwich tray. Depending on the deceased's ancestry, one might find baked ham and cheese buns, mortadella on focaccia bread, pulled pork in a kaiser roll, or liverwurst on dark rye.

If you're planning a funeral or memorial service and are staring blankly at a wall trying to figure out what to feed everyone, take a deep breath, and know that you can depend on tea sandwiches. They're the ideal foods for such events because they can be eaten with one hand whilst chatting with friends and family members, and tend to be tidy enough that they won't erupt all over one's formalwear.
I was once served a slice of Swedish "sandwich cake" (Smörgåstårta) that was truly a thing of beauty: multiple layers of fish paste, shrimp, sliced hardboiled eggs, smoked salmon, cucumber, and cream cheese between thin layers of bread. That's a bit much for a funeral buffet, but it just goes to show that one can rise above the standard melty ham and cheese bake and add a bit of variety to a solemn affair.

I tend to prefer vegetarian fillings in funeral sandwiches, mainly because plant-based ingredients don't go quite as dangerously manky as chicken salad or smoked salmon if left out on a buffet table at room temperature for several hours.

When it comes to the breads and such being used, that's really a matter of individual taste + dietary requirements. For the sake of presentation, it's nice to use a variety of different breads in various ways, such as using pumpernickel to make rolled rounds, or stuffed mini croissants.

Knowing how difficult it is to find food that won't poison me when I attend events, I tend to be the one who brings gluten-free or paleo dishes that we Celiac folks can munch in solidarity.

GF breads can be found at most supermarkets and health food stores, and though paleo rolls are a bit time consuming to make, they turn out rather delicious. If you can get your hands on corn flour-based tortillas, those are also wonderful for GF wraps.

The fillings listed below are categorised as vegetarian with V, vegan with VG, and  Paleo with P. There's a lot of crossover, and of course recipes can always be adapted by swapping ingredients in or out. For example, one can use mashed avocado in lieu of any kind of mayonnaise, Tofutti instead of cream cheese, etc.

Chick'n Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts (VG)
Pulse drained, canned chickpeas in a food processor with a handful each of dried cranberries and walnuts. Mix in some vegan mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper, and spread between slices of grainy bread.

Cucumber, Dill, and Almond "Feta" Soft Cream Cheese (VG, P)
Make a batch of soft almond cheese, and spread it between slices of your favourite bread. Top with thinly sliced cucumber, a sprinkle of salt, a sprig of dill, and even some minced capers, if you so desire. I like this best inside very light, mini GF scones.

Artichoke Muffaletta (VG, P)
Drained artichoke hearts are put through a food processor with a bit of vegan mayonnaise or avocado, and then seasoned with salt, pepper, Cajun spice mix, and tabasco sauce. That's then packed into a mini bun and topped with chopped green olives, minced green onion, and thinly shredded lettuce.

Tomato Slices on Basil Pesto (VG)
A classic: basil pesto spread on whatever you like, and topped with a slice of firm, ripe tomato. Add a bit of salt and pepper, and you're golden.

Hummus with Beet Carpaccio (VG, P option)
Not only rich in flavour, the textures of creamy hummus and slices of sweet roasted beet pair together wonderfully. Use golden beets to avoid inevitable pink staining that red ones will cause. To make a paleo version of this, make hummus from sweet potatoes, cauliflower, or parsnips instead of chick peas.

Mushroom Pate with Dijon (VG, P)
Spread whole-grain Dijon mustard on light or dark rye, top with sliced mushroom pate and either a slice of bread-and-butter gherkin, or a bit of Boston lettuce.

Black Bean and Avocado Bites (VG)
This is great as a filling in mini croissants: use a fork (or food processor) to mash black beans into a thick paste, and season that with salt, pepper, chopped green onions, and a bit of lime juice. Slice open the little pastries, slather some of the black bean mash inside, and top that with a slice or two of avocado and a pinch of salt before closing.

Sliced Hard-Boiled Egg with Veggie "Caviar" (V, P)
These fancy appetizer bites are a nod to my Germanic/Nordic heritage: spread a bit of butter or Earth Balance on flatbread, top with a spray of arugula, a couple of slices of hard-boiled egg, and a small dollop of vegan caviar.

Provolone with Mango Chutney (V)
Mango chutney's tart/sweet combo complements provolone's creaminess in the best way imaginable. Spread multigrain bread with Earth Balance (or butter, or other vegan margarine) on one piece, mango chutney on the other, and sandwich a slice of provolone and a piece of frisée lettuce between them.

Roasted Asparagus Tips with Garlic-Herb Aioli (VG, P)
Roast asparagus tips with a bit of olive oil and good salt, then lay them out between slices of bread (or wrapped up in a tortilla) that's been spread with paleo or vegan aioli.

Olive Tapenade and Cucumber (VG)
The salty creaminess of vegan olive tapenade is a perfect contrast to the crisp sweetness of thinly sliced cucumber. This is great on focaccia bread or any other base that has some firm chewiness to it. (Note: If you use store-bought tapenade, check its ingredients as many varieties have anchovies added to them.)

Baba Ghanoush with Roasted Red Pepper and Zucchini Slices (VG, P)
Slice a mini pita pocket in half, spread baba ghanoush inside each half, add a layer each of roasted zucchini and red pepper slices, roll up, spear with a toothpick.

Cornbread and Guacamole Bites (V, VG option)
Slice mini cornbread muffins in half and fill with thickly mashed guacamole. Close so they look like mini green burgers.

Cauliflower "Egg" Salad (VG, P)
This one works for the autoimmune paleo diet as well. Combine steamed cauliflower florets with vegan mayo, minced celery, onion, salt, pepper, and even a pinch of turmeric for flavour. Pack into mini rolls or roll it up into wraps.

Ploughman's (V)
Slather Branston Pickle (or other favourite sandwich spread) between hearty bread slices along with with sliced aged cheddar and finely chopped pickled onions.

Tofu Banh Mi Rolls (VG)
Take mini rolls and fill them (generously) with vinegar-marinated carrot and daikon radish matchsticks, fried tofu strips, and lettuce.

Almond Butter with Apple (VG, P)
This is a great option for kids attending the funeral, as it's one they probably won't feel intimidated by. Spread almond butter on your bread of choice, top with peeled, thinly sliced red or yellow apple, and a drizzle of honey or agave syrup.

Cashew Cream "Cheese" with Roasted Strawberry Slices (VG, P)
A little fussy to make, but well worth the effort. The cashews need to be pre-soaked to make the "cheese" and the strawberries will need to be pre-roasted, but once the prep work is done, you can spread everything between slices of good, firm bread and dig in.

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