Wow, has there been a lot of good food in my life recently. Today's episode is brought to you by "Spring Cleaning." While "spring" cleaning in January may seem a little pre-emptive, I rest my case on the facts that a) the Bay Area has no discernible seasons and therefore b) returning to Oakland after -4 degree temperatures in Chicago over the holidays fully resembles the advent of spring. So, spring cleaning it was that prompted an attack on our overflowing basket of old Bon Appetits, Gourmets, Food & Wines, and misc other grocery store check-out indulgences. And the resulting clippings have definitely been worth-while.
In September 2009, on page 74, Food & Wine reviewed a Cambodian sandwich shop in Manhattan and offered the recipe for Pequillo-Pepper Num Pangs. Though I apparently found the idea of a southeast asian sandwich very tempting, judging by the dog-ears, the length of the ingredient list alone was enough to get this baby categorized in the "make someday, on a weekend, with Do as a sous-chef, after we've both finished graduate school." Lies! Even if you make your own mayonnaise (which I do these days, more on that some other day), this recipe takes a very relaxed hour. And it's unbelievably creative and delicious.
Experiment: try to think about this from the taste-bud perspective, not the time perspective: take luxury homemade garlic bread, spread on some (homemade) mayonnaise, drizzle with Sriracha chili sauce, layer with paper-thin cucumbers, pickled carrots, roasted red peppers, and cilantro springs, coat with a spicy asian take on pesto, and voila.
It's funky, it's colorful, it's packing a *heavy* punch of flavor, and it falls pretty damn high on my virtuous eating scale. If you can live without anchovies (I can't), it's vegetarian. If you use a substitute for the mayonnaise, its vegan. And, unbelievably, you don't need any crazy Bay Area ingredients to make it happen.
Pequillo-Pepper Num Pangs (makes 4 sandwiches, takes 1 hour).
2 medium carrots
2 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs sugar
3 cups Thai basil leaves (normal basil leaves are a fine substitute)
2 anchovy fillets (or, if you're me, the whole can, drained).
Juice from 1 lime
1 1/2 tsp Asian Fish Sauce
1 tsp crushed red pepper (make that 2)
3 garlic cloves - 2 chopped, 1 whole.
1/4 extra virgin olive oil (or less)
Four individual sandwich baguettes or kaiser rolls, split.
4 Tbs butter.
Mayonnaise, for spreading. (it takes 10 min to make yourself, and then you know what's in it!)
Sriracha chili sauce, for drizzling
One 6" cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline/box grater/whatever you have.
One 6 oz jar of pequillo peppers, drained and patted dry. (it's a shortcut alternative to roasting and peeling 2 of your own red peppers).
12 large cilantro springs.
Julienne carrots. For the love of God, use a box grater or a mandoline or the "slice" function on a cuisineart. As long as the slices aren't so thin that they become mushy, the aesthetics don't matter. In a medium bowl, toss the carrots with the vinegar and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Take the butter out of the fridge so that it'll be room temperature when you need it. If you're making your own mayonnaise, do so now.
In a food processor, combine the basil, anchovies, lime juice, fish sauce, crushed red pepper, and chopped garlic and process to a paste. With the machine on, slowly pour olive oil and puree until blended. Go easy on the olive oil, you don't want this pesto to be too liquidy. Check for seasoning, and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 min.
Preheat the broiler. Spread the butter on the cut slices of bread (~1/2 Tbs per slice). Toast in broiler. Rub the toasted sides with the garlic clove (you may need more than one clove to do this). Spread with the mayonnaise. Drizzle with Sriracha. Arrange the cucumber, carrots, and pequillo peppers on the bottoms and garnish with cilantro. Spread the tops with the pesto and close the sandwiches. Cut in half and serve.
** You'll probably have half a cup of pesto left over. I haven't decided what to do with mine yet.. though that may not turn out to be a problem, given that I've been dipping my finger in it and licking it off every 3 seconds...