July 12, 2012 by Jay Helms
I grew up in Cary, North Carolina, which means 100% of the food I ate growing up came from a grocery store. I knew nothing about fresh food or seasonally available food. As far as I knew, strawberries were always just as good in November as they were in April and May. Tomatoes were equally tasty in February and July. I did actually see a few tomato plants growing in pots on the back deck and we had an apple tree, but these tomatoes and apples never seemed to make it to my plate.
It wasn’t until one summer in graduate school when Carla made pesto from homegrown basil that I realized the wonder of seasonal foods. After I tasted that first worldview-altering batch of pesto, I spent day and night in a chair next to the basil plants, just waiting for the plants to grow enough to make the next batch of pesto. A lot has changed since then for me. I am much more aware of seasons and food grown in the garden.
Over the past 8 years, I have come to love a few specific summer sandwiches and I figure they are worth sharing. They are especially terrific as picnic sandwiches. And all three recipes include Brie…how did that happen?
1) Ham, Apple, and Brie – Got this one from the sandwich shop next to the Food Lion in Southern Shores/Kitty Hawk.
This sandwich calls for Granny Smith apples, Black Forest Ham (Boar’s Head is especially tasty), and Brie cheese. These three alone are good, but it’s the homemade rosemary-mayo that puts it over the top. Mix together some combination of chopped fresh rosemary, sugar, vinegar, and mayonnaise for your own taste preference.
2) Peach, Bacon, and Brie
After experimenting, we discovered one detail that makes a big difference: use very thick bacon not regular. The regular bacon just tastes like crunchy stuff, no matter how much you put on the sandwich. If you want to get sophisticated, some high-end supermarkets, perhaps Fresh Market or Whole Foods, sell “Black Forest Bacon”. Well worth it in my opinion.
3) Sausage, Onion, and Brie
To make this sandwich, carmelize some onions with brown sugar and butter in a sauce pan. Add some sliced Chicken-Apple sausage and mix. Add a small amount of fresh ground black pepper and 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic. Add some beer, up to 1/2 cup. And for the adventurous ones, add bourbon, up to 1/4 cup. Cook until sauce thickens at least a little. At the end, add some fresh thyme to top it off. This one can be eaten immediately or cooked and then saved to be taken on a picnic.
I experience these sandwiches as gifts from God, and they remind me that He is good, loves us, and desires that life be full of joy and delight. As the younger brother of Jesus once said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”