Some days, even a whole sandwich is too much to handle. Kidding. I can always eat a sandwich, but sometimes I like to meddle, which is where tea sandwiches come in. Or finger sandwiches, or whatever you call them. My mom called them finger sandwiches, but...I don't like to name food after body parts? But "tea sandwich" sounds pretentious and my big thing is eating at home in my stretchy pants, so.
The nice thing about tiny sandwiches is that you can make them out of anything. Which brings me to a point: I'm sick of people complaining about vegetarians and vegans. I mean, really? I love meat, but the good stuff is expensive and anyone on a budget should have a reasonable repertoire of vegetarian and even vegan recipes. It's just not that hard.
So, finger sandwiches. I'm in a club for ladies, fondly known as the Sunday Funday Supper Club. The theme is loose: There are 17 of us, and one Sunday a month, one or two of the members host everyone else for a Sunday supper. Menus are all over the place. We've had crêpes, a taco bar, and a fancy catered meal that ended in a gymnastics dance party and a busted ankle (I missed that one). There was a Russian smorgasbord, a party with the theme "Dinner Party," and a beautiful backyard Puerto Rican supper. I missed the fireside fall dinner, but I loved the family-style Indian feast where caftans were encouraged. One weekend, we went to the beach together—and divided up meal duties, so everything was great—and wore matching visors. We all brought books and still had time for a Sound of Music sing-along on the beach.
When it was my turn to host, I had a tea party, with a bunch of finger sandwiches and a tureen of vichyssoise to pull it all together. And this punch, which I highly recommend, but do be careful because it packs a hell of a...punch. I recommend serving it in a punch bowl with a fancy ice ring instead of in a pitcher, because you should get as much use out of your punch bowl as possible. Not everyone in our group eats meat—and we all get along anyway, if you can believe it. I know. It seems like everyone's in a fight over the littlest things these days, but not my supper club. We have matching visors. And we read and sing show tunes.
Like I said, you can make tea sandwiches out of anything, but these are two of my favorites. Have you ever wanted a bite-sized B.L.T. that didn't fall apart when you ate it? Done. How about a vegan sandwich that everyone can enjoy? Omnivores won't miss the meat and your vegan friends will thank you.
You see that plate of sandwiches? And the flowers? That wasn't even a party. That was just me taking pictures and eating sandwiches on my porch in my stretchy pants. And it was delightful. The salted almonds made it a meal, so when I left to visit a friend, I told the kids dinner was on the porch. (Don't worry. I also took a little plate of sandwiches to my friend. And I brought her some Iberico ham bone stock to freeze and use later, because she's the kind of friend who appreciates that sort of thing.)
I spend almost every Sunday cleaning out the fridge by cooking everything in it. Sometimes that means Iberico ham bone stock in large quantities, tea sandwiches, and some pimiento cheese. (It always involves pimiento cheese, because there's literally no better way to use up bits and pieces of cheese you have leftover from the week. Mac and cheese is also a good way to use assorted cheese, but then you have to cook pasta.)
Maybe you'd like to make these for supper.
B.L.T. Finger Sandwiches
Makes about 5 full sandwiches, 20 tea sandwiches
1 cup chopped tomatoes, seeds and juices discarded
1 cup chopped bacon
2 cups chopped lettuce, something with some firmness, like romaine or arugula
2 tablespoons Duke's mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
10 slices Wonder Bread (What?)
In a bowl, stir together all of the ingredients except the bread. Mix them until thoroughly combined, so they're spreadable, but not soupy. You can also do it in a food processor—just a couple pulses per ingredient—and stir in the mayo at the end.
Spread the fully blended mixture between slices of bread and cut off the crusts (just do it), then cut each sandwich into four little sandwiches.
About the seeds and juice from the tomatoes: If you're cheap like me, you'll set them aside instead of throwing them in the compost and use them later to deglaze a pan and add a little acidity to the next thing you cook. May I recommend dirty rice?
These sandwiches are best served cold. Refrigerate them for at least an hour before serving.
Voilà. B.L.T. sandwiches that won't fall apart when you carry the plate out to the porch. Because y'all know tea sandwiches are better when you give them a little time to stick together, right? Make them, put them in the fridge between sheets of wax paper, and serve when you're ready. It'll taste like a sip and see, in the best way possible.
Cucumber Tea Sandwiches with Arugula Pesto
Makes about 5 full sandwiches, 20 tea sandwiches
1 English cucumber, seeded and chopped
A few shakes of your favorite seasoning salt (I recommend French Picnic Salt)
Pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
3 cups arugula or watercress
A healthy dash of vegan Worcestershire sauce
A healthy dash of hot sauce
10 slices of wheat or multi-grain bread, something mildly sweet is nice
Sprinkle the salt over the chopped cucumber and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Put it in a strainer over a bowl.
In a food processor, blend the pepper, sugar, onion powder, margarine, mayo, arugula or watercress, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce until smooth.
Press the salted cucumbers down to drain some of the liquid. Stir the cucumbers and pesto together in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add more salt to taste if necessary.
Spread the mixture in between two slices of bread and cut off the crusts (just do it), then cut each sandwich into four little sandwiches.
Land of Lakes Margarine Sticks taste the most like real butter and have a similar consistency.
Follow Your Heart Vegenaise is pretty great. I wouldn't eat it slathered on a B.L.T. or anything, but the consistence is nice. Rosewood Market here in Columbia uses it to make their pimiento cheese, and that is some excellent (non-vegan) pimiento cheese.
Lea and Perrins Worcestersire, while a classic, is not vegetarian, but Annie's makes a nice alternative. I keep both of them in the fridge at all times.
You can peel the cucumber if you like, but the peel gives your sandwiches a nice little crunch, so I leave it on.
You can make the sandwiches for a party, even if the party is a porch soirée for one (or two). And how about this? Let's call the B.L.T.s finger sandwiches, but then get fancy and call the cucumber and pesto version tea sandwiches. Vegans aren't any more pretentious than anyone else, but it does seem disrespectful to call something a finger sandwich if it's vegan, don't you think?
A Little Housekeeping: In case anyone was wondering, I don't have any endorsement deal with Beautiful Briny Sea Salts—or anyone else, and I'll certainly let you know if it ever happens. I know the founder, who was also my oldest son's first employer at the now former El Burrito in Five Points (*sob*). Anyhow, Beautiful Briny Sea's Suzi Sheffield sends me salt, especially when she has something new. Over the years, I've definitely found some favorites, including the French Picnic Salt mentioned above.