Besides the perfect weather, striking landscapes, and culture of positivity and innovation, one of the best things about being a Californian is the food. Whenever I travel to another state I am reminded of how spoiled I am to live in this land of plenty, and how much I depend on it. My husband and I are leaving on a 3 week road trip in a few days to travel the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We are going to drive up the coast of California, through Oregon to Portland, maybe even up into Washington, then through Idaho to Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone National Park, then Utah and down to Arizona and the Grand Canyon, and back through Nevada and home again. Then we will catch a flight to Kauai for another week. One whole month on the road with as many national parks and waterfalls as we can find! We will camp and back pack through the mainland, then do Airbnb rentals in Hawaii. It is going to be an amazing month! I can’t wait to see the beauty our country has to offer.
Having said that, I know that life on the road means lots of camping food like trail mix and canned beans. We are trying to do the whole trip on the cheap. So with a few days left before we depart, I wanted to treat myself to the bounty that Los Angeles and California has to offer, which is when I came up with the California Sandwich.
California cuisine is diverse and covers everything from barbecue to fine french fusion, but there are some common themes that have emerged over the last 20 years or so. Being one of the main sources of produce for the whole country, California cuisine is foremost fresh and vegetable-centric. The emphasis on local, seasonal fruits and vegetables harmonizes perfectly with our liberal-leaning, health-conscious demand for organic and sustainable food. We love to take casual foods like burgers, pizza, and sandwiches and turn them into gourmet delicacies that surprise and excite the senses. We love to ‘fancify’ the little details of a dish to make them cool and new. We also love to nail the presentation, we’re vain like that. And, our on-the-go culture is the perfect place for hand-held food to be eaten on the road, on a hike, and generally outside under the sun. This sandwich is my personal interpretation of all those things.
Starting with locally baked La Brea Bakery ciabatta and topped with seasonal California grown veggies, I notched it up with unusually gourmet details like the garlic-basil mayo, added local touches like a splash of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and of course the star of the show is the California Hass avocado. I just so happened to have some California State Golden Poppy toothpicks to top it off and I highly recommend eating this creation poolside and under the sun! I hope you’ll try it and get a taste of the golden state for yourself! Peace out dudes.
The California Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches
1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced into 2 loafs, each with a top and bottom
2 tbs vegan mayo (I like Hampton Creek’s ‘Just Mayo’, a San Francisco based innovator!)
2 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
2 big basil leaves, minced (I used some from my own garden)
1 tbs olive oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
a splash of white wine
a dash of salt
2 big leaves of romaine, finely shredded
1 hass avocado, very thinly sliced
1 big tomato, very thinly sliced
a drizzle of balsamic reduction (I got this already made in a squeeze bottle at the grocery store but you can easily make it yourself by heating up some balsamic vinegar over low heat on the stove until it becomes thick and sticky.)
More salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Start by toasting the bread or even better, throw it on a hot outdoor grill for a few minutes until it’s toasty. Set aside.
Combine the mayo, garlic and basil in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a small pan over low heat and add the shallots. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the splash of white wine to deglaze the pan and add the salt. Cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring to prevent burning. You want to cook them until nice and golden.
I split all the ingredients in half to make two sandwiches. (I ate both, that’s right!) When ready to assemble, start with the bottom half of the bread and slather with the mayo mixture. Sprinkle on the caramelized onions. Then, add the romaine lettuce. Top the lettuce with the avocado slices, then the tomato slices. Finally, finish with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and some final salt and pepper before topping with the other half of bread. You’ll notice we are alternating ‘sticky’ and ‘wet’ layers, so it all holds together better. To see a cool timelapse video of the sandwich assembly, check out my instagram post
And there it is! A taste of the golden state before your very eyes. I hope you like it as much as I do!