Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

Salame, Figs, Fennel and a Sandwich Showdown

  Figs, Fennel Salami, Goat Cheese, Arugula, Apple-Fennel Slaw
plus 1 Mystery Ingredient

Yesterday I participated in “TopWichSF” a sandwich-showdown hosted by San Francisco’s Colombus Salame and Sean Timberlake, author of Hedonia and founder of Punk Domestics. I am a big fan of Columbus products, and was more than pleased to be 1 of 3 bloggers invited to this event to promote Columbus’ new line of Farm to Fork Naturals salame. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, outside on the sunny terrace of Hotel Vitale’s Cafe Americano, overlooking the San Francisco Embarcadero in the company of my formidable competition, John Mitzewich and Michael Procopio.

To begin with, Sean had created a sampling of small bites he created using Columbus products for us to taste. We were then introduced to the Colombus company, and given a little back ground on its 100 year history and the intricacies of flavoring and shaping various salame. I didn’t realize how important a role the casings play in distinguishing flavor – and, apparently, size does matter.


Before we donned our aprons, we were whisked across the street via Pedi-Cabs (picture a bicycle rickshaw with crossfit drivers) to the San Francisco Ferry Building, a bastion of glorious food purveyors, restaurants and specialty shops. We were given ten dollars and ten minutes to purchase the secret ingredient of our choice which would catapult our sandwiches to the highest level and propel one of us bloggers to the winning title. We then had a brief yet scenic trip back to the hotel where we returned to our battle stations on the patio, providing extra entertainment for the restaurant patrons at the nearby tables.

In 20 fast minutes, we had to create our sandwich masterpieces and plate for 5 esteemed judges from Chow, Tasting Table, SFWeekly, YumSugar and Columbus. No time to get nervous. And no time to taste my sandwich either – the time just flew by. After the judges compared notes and tallied scores, the winner was … John! He made a smoked turkey and soppressata sandwich embelished with a pluot and pinenut relish and harissa (no wonder). Michael’s  sandwich was beyond creative with grilled turkey and soppressata with apples, slathered in  bone marrow butter. (These guys are good). As for me, I kept things fresh and made a fennel salami, fig and goat cheese sandwich topped with fennel-apple slaw and a sprinkle of fennel pollen (my secret ingredient). John generously donated his cash prize to the San Francisco Food Bank, and I think we all won by experiencing a fun and fabulous day and opportunity to meet a few friends in the blogging community and the friendly faces behind Columbus Salame.

As for my sandwich, I’ve recreated it here – mostly for you, but also for me, since I never had a chance to take a bite of the one I made yesterday. Buon appetito!

Fennel, Fig and Salami Sandwich with Goat Cheese

Many specialty stores will carry fennel pollen with their spices, but don’t despair if you can’t find it. A little sprinkle definitely adds an extra boost of flavor, but this sandwich is equally delicious without. Alternatively, add 1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon to the oil in place of the pollen. Makes one sandwich.

Mustard Fennel Oil:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon fennel pollen
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Apple Fennel Slaw:
1/2 small green or fuji apple, thinly sliced in small matchsticks
1/2 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of salt

1 ciabatta roll

2.5 ounces soft, fresh goat cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon fennel pollen, or to taste
1 – 2 figs, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 ounces thinly sliced fennel salami
Small handful fresh arugula leaves

Make the Mustard-Fennel Oil:
Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Make the Apple-Slaw:
Toss all of the ingredients together in another small bowl. Set aside.

Assemble sandwich:
Horizontally slice the ciabatta roll in half. Spread the bottom half with the goat cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper and fennel pollen. Arrange the figs over the cheese in one layer. Top with 2 layers of overlapping fennel salami slices. Top the salami with arugula, then top the arugula with some of the apple-fennel slaw (you may not need all of it). Spread the cut side of the top half of the ciabatta with the Mustard-Fennel Oil and cover the sandwich. Eat immediately.

Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)

Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)


A recipe for Sausage and Broccolini Pasta and a tale of the Elusive Casing

Charcutepalooza Round #6
The Challenge: Homemade Italian Sausage

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you must be prepared to traverse the county, futilely cold call farmer’s market purveyors, and face rejection at multiple Whole Foods stores and independent markets in search of the elusive casing a.k.a. pig intestines – or the sacred vessel that contains the cherished meat in the form of a sausage.

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you shall be prepared to pay dearly for said casing when located, because either:

  • The local supermarket is flummoxed when it comes to charging for an empty casing, and, at the risk of compromising highly sensitive payment technologies, will charge you the price of a whole sausage. Yes, that’s right: You will be required to pay for a sausage without meat.
  • You belatedly order from the stalwart Charcutepalooza ally, D’Artagnan, thereby assuming full responsibility (and overnight shipping charges) due to your procrastination, in order to avert a last minute crisis and Charcutepalooza meltdown.
  • Or you flee your suburban confines for the lure and anonymity of the big city  – and the Ferry Building – which entails paying bridge tolls, parking fees, and extraneous charges in the form of lunch and shopping. (Hey, it’s the Ferry Building.)

If you succeed in obtaining the elusive casing you will be jubilant and nearly home free, until you unpack your brand new meat grinder and sausage stuffer and realize you must decipher a cryptic code to correctly assemble the tools to achieve your desired results. Your trusted assistant, a.k.a. spouse, will selflessly risk life, limb and marital conflict, while cautiously advising you on all matters of RTM (that’s code for Reading The Manual). You will soldier on and prevail, sausages and marriage in tact, another Chaructepalooza challenge met with glorious and grillable results.

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Given the amount of effort required to find the sausage casing, it’s not without irony that many recipes including sausage in pasta or on pizza, recommend discarding the casings and crumbling the meat. Well, rest assured, this recipe requires no such thing.

Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta with Basil
Serves 4 

1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, penne, pipette rigate
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage links (see below)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
3/4 pound broccolini, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in half, plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice in 1/4 inch pieces.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccolini and continue to sauté until bright green but still crisp, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer 3-4 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Add pasta and sausages to the skillet. Toss to combine and thoroughly heat through. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves and cheese. Serve immediately garnished with extra cheese and basil.

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Homemade Italian Sausage
Makes about 3 1/2 pounds sausage, or 12 links

I followed Hank Shaw’s sausage making technique in this post from Simply Recipes  and used these ingredients  for the filling:

3 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 pound pork fat
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted, finely ground
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced  fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry red wine

What is Charcutepalooza?

An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.