Rabbi Zidnee Ilman
“My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.”
The best bit about sandwiches is that they are super simple, very healthy (provided you’ve followed the right mantra), and incredibly satisfying. For these very reasons, they are an ideal serve for Ramadan meals. Working folks are on the run each morning and the last thing they want is to miss their Suhoor because they couldn’t fix something fancy to eat. Others are simply fighting sleep and cannot summon enough energy to cook something. At Iftaar, once again, the working folks might be stuck in traffic, may still be at work, or too worn out to make something grand for Iftaar. There is the rush for Tarawih prayers, and wives, mothers, and sisters are scurrying about clearing up the Iftaar table and thinking about the next day’s meals. Sandwiches are easy to prepare, quick to eat, convenient to carry, and they don’t leave a heavy duty messy table to clear up later.
I believe in three types of sandwiches. Yes, I need to believe in my food to get it right. Think of sandwiches to have three categories:
(1) Meat sandwiches,
(2) Vegetable sandwiches, and
(3) Fruit sandwiches (yes, they exist and they are delicious!).
Before I reveal the details of each kind of sandwich, it is essential to understand a few sandwich-making rules:
- Have toasted, whole-grain bread. Processed, white breads kill the purpose of being healthy altogether. I love whole wheat, but you can get multi-grain or rye bread too.
- There should be healthy spreads and condiments to coat the toasts with. Natural tomato paste or pasta sauce, unprocessed and unsweet mustard or honey mustard, butter, and hummus are ideal choices. On the sweet side, unsweetened applesauce, natural jams, and organic fruit spreads can do wonders to a fruit sandwich, or even a combination sandwich (fruit/veggie, fruit/meat, or fruit/veggie/meat combinations).
- Filling is the core of a sandwich, and while our goal is to keep things simple, there are some delicious and fortifying fillings that can be prepared with some good time management. The fillings, as the categories go, are meat, vegetables, and fruits.
- Say cheese! I believe cheese is the soul of a sandwich. If it is healthy, it will not fatten you up. Greek feta cheese, string cheese (part-skim mozzarella), Parmesan, Swiss, and Cottage cheese are all lower fat varieties and using a little slice would do you good.
- Keep it leafy. Kale, lettuce, spinach, and coleslaw are the healthiest additions you can make to your sandwich. Make sure you pick a favorite and use it.
Chicken and fish are lean meats (least fatty) which is why they should be on your top list. They are both super-fast to cook as well. Simply marinate them for half an hour and they are good to fry, steam, or bake in an additional 15 minutes.Best marinades are pasta sauce, tomato puree with ground garlic pods and a hint of chili, and mustard and butter. You can choose your own spice and salt level. I recommend that you come up with your own marinades so you don’t have to follow recipes line by line.
My personal chicken bake for sandwiches is marinated in black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, lemon juice, salt, and tomato puree with ground garlic pods and a hint of chili. The trick to bake the best chicken is to use a high temperature of 400 F and bake for a short time of 20 minutes. It keeps the meat juicy.
Vegetables are a super quick fix. They taste wonderful when they’re grilled or baked. The same marinades can be used and instead of an hour, 30 minutes will work just right. Sliced boiled egg is an ideal combination with veggies.
Ideal vegetables are gourds.
Did you know that gourds are a favorite of Prophet Muhammad Sal Allahu aleyhi wa a’leyhi wasallam? Anas bin Malik narrated that a tailor invited the Prophet to a meal which he had prepared. Anas bin Malik accompanied the Prophet and observed that he was seeking to eat the pieces of gourd from the various sides of the dish. Since that day Anas bin Malik developed a liking to eat gourd.
[Sahih al-Bukhari 5379]
There is a variety of gourds that you can use. There is bottle gourd (lauki in Indo-Pak), pumpkin, and zucchini. The best bit about them is that they have very little taste of their own and will absorb your marinade ideally. Bake, fry, or grill them for a couple of minutes and they are ready for your sandwich filler.
Other vegetable ideas are peppers (red, yellow, green), tomatoes, onions, eggplant, and mushrooms. You can even incorporate lentils and beans such as moong, black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and you name it. This sounds better than Subway right?
First class passengers on board airlines get to choose from a variety of fruits and cheeses to couple with their meal. Right there is the concept of a fruit sandwich – fruit and cheese. Grilled apples and pears with grilled cheese are a perfect filling for a sandwich. It melts right in your mouth and the sweet and cheesy fusion makes your taste buds dance. Peanut butter and jelly is a popular one. But nut butter of any kind can be used with wholesome fruits like bananas, strawberries, blackberries, and kiwis to fix a delicious sandwich.
A combination fruit sandwich can be grilled chicken/tuna with pineapple or mango. A fruit ‘n’ nut sandwich can be easily assembled by combining cheese, crushed fruit (like pineapple), and grated nuts and using the mixture for a filling.
The Internet is packed with recipes of some of the most unique and most delicious sandwiches. You will be amazed by how unique sandwich ingredients can be. Who knew that mangoes and pineapples can go in as sandwich fillers? Try being a sandwich artist this Ramadan. You will enjoy the simplicity, the ease, the creative drive, and might want to share the fun with your family and friends. Sandwiches can fit into the most formal of Iftaar dinner menus, and also stay fit for your student/ work life. Give my mantra a try, let me know what you make of it inShaAllah.
1. “Five Healthiest Cheeses”- http://health.yahoo.net/articles/nutrition/photos/5-healthiest-cheeses#0
2. ‘Sahih Al-Bukhari 5379’- http://sunnah.com/bukhari/70 , http://sunnah.com/abudawud/14
Authored by Anum Ali
Edited by Sana Abdul Samad