A light classic: the open-face sandwich

Crab, cucumber, and watercress make a refreshing yet satisfying summer meal

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson For a simple, refreshing summer meal, a simple open-face sandwich can’t be beat.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson
For a simple, refreshing summer meal, a simple open-face sandwich can’t be beat.

Maria Stordahl Nelson
Seattle, Wash.

Every summer without fail, when the temperature rises and the thought of turning on the oven makes me break out in a not-so-imaginary sweat, I begin to think ever more fondly of the beautiful simplicity of open-face sandwiches.

As a child we ate them frequently, but it wasn’t until my first trip to Scandinavia at the tender age of 13 that I really began to fully appreciate their appeal. Readily available at roadside restaurants and cafes and served in virtually every home we would visit, my grandmother and I found ourselves quick converts to their “fast food” convenience and by extension became daily consumers.

My adolescent palate, although already very attuned to all foods Scandinavian, began to gradually expand to include herring, roe, and some of the most delicious pickled vegetables I had ever tasted.

The lessons learned on that trip and subsequent trips thereafter stuck to my culinary conscience like glue, forming my food identity in ways I am only now fully realizing. It’s with those thoughts in mind that I regularly reach for the rye bread and butter, thinking of all the possibilities for delicious refreshing sandwiches. There is just something about the small ceremony involved in their assembly that satisfies me; the meaningful wash of memory and satisfaction that overtakes when I sit down, knife and fork in hand, is difficult to put to words.

This recipe—made on the fly one afternoon from ingredients I found on hand in the fridge—can be easily replicated with shrimp or prawns if crab is not your thing. The substitution of skyr for the perhaps more typical mayonnaise or crème fraîche just seemed natural for me, but feel free to play around with those if that’s what you have. So the next time you’re wondering what to do for dinner or for lunch, when you just can’t bring yourself to cook, begin by breaking out the bread and butter. Then give yourself over to the beauty of creating something light, refreshing, and wholly satisfying.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

Cucumber, crab & watercress sandwiches
4 slices rye bread
2 tbsps. butter, room temperature
1 cup sliced cucumbers
1 cup lump crabmeat
1 small shallot, diced
3 tbsps. chives
½ cup plain skyr or low fat sour cream
juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
small bunch watercress leaves
additional crab for garnish

Butter each slice of rye bread and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the crab, shallot, chives, skyr, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Layer the cucumber slices on top of the buttered bread, then heap equal amounts of the crab mixture on top. Garnish with additional crabmeat and watercress leaves. Serves four.

Maria Stordahl Nelson is a Seattle-area food writer, photographer, and recipe developer. She shares her love of all things sweet, savory, and sometimes Nordic at www.pinkpatisserie.net.

This article originally appeared in the July 17, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.