Sandwich Talk with Alison Lewis

I’ve been doing a project for a company that requires me to work on-site a few days a week. The lunchtime pickings near their office are slim, so I usually prefer to take something in. Leftovers are fine, but I really like tucking into a good sandwich. The release of Alison Lewis’s first cookbook, 400 Best Sandwich Recipes: From Classics & Burgers to Wraps & Condiments (Robert Rose), arrived just in time.

Lewis, a longtime recipe developer and food consultant whose work has appeared in Cooking Light, Weight Watchers, Southern Living and other publications, has filled the book with tasty ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert. She also has a sizable section devoted to homemade condiments–aiolis, relishes, salsas and more.

I can’t wait for nectarines to peaches to come into season so I can make her Open-Faced Nectarine and Chevre Sandwich and Grilled Peach and Brie Sandwich (Lewis’s personal fave). Her Vietnamese-inspired Banh Mi Burgers, made with ground pork, are sure to turn up on our table this summer.

I asked Lewis about the importance of great condiments, her definition of the perfect sandwich (she should know!) and why she has her son to thank for the book.

You said your younger son, Zachary, came up with the idea for the book. How did that happen?

My publisher, Robert Rose, was looking for a hole in the cookbook market, and they publish single-subject cookbooks.

After months of ideas back and forth, I was on a conference call with my publisher discussing ideas, with my 3 children in the car. Zachary, said, “What about sandwiches?”

My publisher did some quick research, and he realized there was no bible of sandwiches. The rest was history.

But, wow, 400 sandwiches! Where did your inspiration come from?

Most of the recipes were inspired by sandwiches I love or have had in restaurants or while traveling. Some ideas came from friends’ suggestions and requests via social media.

I love that you devote so much space to condiments. Is a good homemade condiment the component that elevates a sandwich from OK to outstanding?

I believe so. What I really love about that chapter is so many also can be used as appetizers, Nectarine Relish, Pineapple Relish, Peach-Ginger Chutney and Southwestern Corn Salsa, to name a few

After developing all those sandwiches, burgers, wraps and condiments, how do you define the perfect sandwich?

Start with great bread and the freshest, most seasonal ingredients possible and add a great spread to top it off.

Greek Chicken Salad Pita with Lemon Vinaigrette

When chicken salad comes to mind, I always think of a mayonnaise-bound concoction (not that I don’t enjoy that). But this chicken salad recipe, from Alison Lewis’s new book 400 Best Sandwich Recipes (Robert Rose) updates an old favorite with a fresh, bright-flavored, colorful spin. There’s no added salt in this recipe, because the feta and Kalamata olives add plenty of salty kick. If you don’t want to buy a whole jar of olives, look for Kalamatas that you can purchase by the pound at the supermarket salad bar, olive bar or deli case. Lewis recommends using leftover grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken. Or, to change it up, sub chopped, cooked shrimp for the poultry. Use whole wheat pita bread, if you can find it.

greek-chicken-salad

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FoodBlogSouth Conference Coming in January!

We have lots of friends down in Birmingham, Alabama, so we’re excited to tell you about the FoodBlogSouth conference on Jan. 22, 2011. It’s a must-go event if you live in the South and love writing about food.

It’s being organized by Shaun Chavis, an editor at Time Inc. in Birmingham and co-founder of the Birmingham Foodie Book Club, to celebrate Southern food culture, which has always been all about honoring local traditions. “The South is hot in American culture,” Shaun says. “People want comfort food. They want classic American flavors with new twists.  Some want to garden and can and cook local food. They’re looking to the South for ideas, because those things have always been a part of Southern life.”

Chavis and her fellow organizers have put together an impressive lineup of speakers. Highlights include sessions with New York Times food writer and author of Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life Kim Severson; Southern culinary icon Virginia Willis; and culinary literary agent Lisa Ekus-Saffer of the Lisa Ekus Group, who will talk about how bloggers can become cookbook authors.

Southern Living senior photographer Jennifer Davick and Southern Living food stylist and test kitchen professional Marian Cooper-Cairns will be on hand to teach the basics of food photography and styling. Christy Jordan, blogger at Southern Plate (averaging 13 million page views a month) and author of Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family, will cover tips to market your blog. Two-time Shorty Award winner John-Bryan Hopkins, “The Foodimentary Guy,” will reveal social media strategies,  while cookbook author/recipe developer Alison Lewis shares the finer points of recipe development.

We’re especially pleased about FoodBlogSouth’s emphasis on sustainability, particularly in light of the recent environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. “The South provides much of the seafood in the U.S., and it was drastically impacted by the Gulf oil spill tragedy,” Shaun notes. “I think bloggers can guide people on what to eat, and connect their audiences with the people in the seafood industry who are our neighbors.” To that end, the day will include a panel about Southern seafood in wake of the Gulf oil spill.

Proceeds from FoodBlogSouth will benefit the Alabama Gulf Coast Environmental Recovery Fund, which assists with recovery efforts from the Gulf oil spill, as well as the Desert Island Supply Company, a new nonprofit writing center for children.

It’s a packed day and an amazing value at $135 (that includes a pre-party on Friday evening, lunch on Saturday and a post-conference mixer). Even better, FoodBlogSouth is offering a $20 discount for NOURISH Evolution’s readers. To take advantage of the discount and register, visit http://foodblogsouth.eventbrite.com/ and enter code FBSnourish.

Enjoy, y’all!