Cheese toastwich with tomato and garlic-scape pesto

 

Toastwich. Sort of an impatient person’s grilled cheese.  They had a sort of vaunted place in our lives, growing up…

Weekends were very regimented things: Saturdays we went to the market.  Sunday we had church.  Meals were more of a production, with Dad often stepping in to contribute – often with dinners, but always, his famous Sunday morning breakfasts: The sound of early morning clanking was the occasional tell-tale signal that cinnamon rolls were in production, but always we could count on an elaborate feast of hearty, nut and fruit filled pancakes, or waffles, or omelets served with fancy sausage or Canadian/peameal bacon.

The breakfasts were a thing, notable to friends and family that were lucky enough to share in the feast. But, so were Saturday lunches.

Hours were spent at the market, grabbing produce, meats and cheese and wine, often cookies at Johnny Macs, nuts, flours, legumes and such at Rocky’s, coffee and spices from Rafel’s. There was a stretch that only the pea-berry Ethiopian coffee would suffice, but then that Brazilian variety arrived…  We had to wean away from that.  Rafel’s also had all the little bottles of various oil extracts that became a thing in grade school – where we’d twizzle a toothpick in it for several hours and then walk around as if we’d gained some greater gravitas by having a flavored toothpick hanging from our mouths.  Also, Gabriel’s:  That’s still the best place on the planet – for olives, halva, their red-pepper hummus; yogurt balls…

All the walking, talking and gathering was followed by the unloading – packing all the food into two fridges, including one in the garage that eventually failed, but still reserved its purpose, regardless, though probably less effectively. The freezer was on the bottom, and over time, it would grow massive walls of ice that eventually would need removing – it locked, a foot-pedal used to swing it open.

What followed, then, was arraying of what was foraged: Often sandwiches made of all the lunch meats and cheeses from Hirt’s, fruit, and the desultory passing of the nut-cracker, as we worked our way through assorted, in-shell nuts.  Then, of course, the cookies.

But on occasion, on only ever Saturdays for lunch, sometimes we’d have cheese toastwiches. They were received like gifts on Christmas morning – a treat so simple, but perceived so exotic and so infrequently enjoyed:  They were celebrated.  Irrationally…  For whatever reason, toastwiches were never asked for, just occasionally presented and exalted:  Served, always, with a sprinkling of Worcestershire.  Once in a while, always on Saturday for lunch.

With all the chaos involved in current family life, it’s hard to conceive we held to such strict routines: They’ve all been left to history as we scramble every week to cram in all the abundant activities, though toastwiches remain a rarity – and not held with the same regard by the new generation, perhaps because the lack of association as a novelty to routine. We probably would have scoffed at these as kids:  There was a rumor that tomatoes were disliked, and pesto had yet to become a thing – and who ever heard of garlic scapes?

Tempting tempeh tortas

Tortas are like mole:  Everyone’s is different.  The first torta tasted was decades back in an unrecalled location, maybe Chicago, or somewhere in Indiana, but it was served with an amazing sauce, recollected — as mole.  So when we stopped into a dinky little spot in the old-town part of Lansing, mole was again asked for, and what was brought, was a delicious, spicy and very dark red sauce.

The next time we stopped there and ordered the very exact same thing, what was brought out was an oily, bright red sauce.  It was not quite as good…

These tortas use both a tomato paste as condiment, and a powerfully potent red sauce:

This was heavily diluted with red bells, to make it palatable all around — perhaps to its detriment.  It is a good sandwich, but not that exotic flavor either remembered or imagined, long ago.

Without expectations, the boys thought they were quite good.

Continue reading Tempting tempeh tortas

Fillet-o-fish

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Satisfying a crave with a healthier alternative:  Or, at least — the addition of some red onions.

In reality, the tartar is probably the key ingredient…