Tired Of The Same Old Sandwiches? Try These Updates On 3 Classics

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Chef Kathy Gunst's tuna sandwich with tomatoes and lemon-orange mayonnaise. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Chef Kathy Gunst's tuna sandwich with tomatoes and lemon-orange mayonnaise. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Our resident chef Kathy Gunst has come up with fresh takes on tuna salad, grilled ham and cheese and chicken salad sandwiches, and brings them to share with Here & Now's Robin Young and Lisa Mullins.

7 Sandwich-Making Tips

  • Sandwiches tend to get soggy the longer they sit. Try to put together sandwiches as close to serving time as possible.
  • If you must make sandwiches ahead of time, think about separating out the condiments — mayonnaise, mustard, oil, vinegar, etc. — and adding at the last minute.
  • Add crisp lettuce leaves to bread so it acts as a protective layer and keeps the bread from getting soggy.
  • Wrap sandwiches up as two open-faced pieces of bread and place the bread on top at the last minute to keep the sandwich fresher.
  • Experiment with toppings: Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of mayonnaise.
  • Add olive tapenade to sandwiches instead of mayonnaise or mustard.
  • Experiment with different types of bread: whole grain, rye, black, sourdough, oatmeal, etc.

Robin's Grown-Up Tuna Sandwich With Tomatoes And Lemon-Orange Mayonnaise

This is a sophisticated take on the old tuna sandwich with tomatoes that Robin adores. Instead of the traditional canned tuna we all grew up with, I decided to saute a piece of fresh tuna with some grated lemon and orange zest. The tuna is then cut into slices and piled onto thick crusty toast with an orange and lemon flavored mayonnaise and thinly sliced tomatoes.

Serve with pickles and celery sticks. Serves 2, but you can easily double or triple the recipe to serve a crowd.

The Tuna

  • 3 to 4 ounces fresh tuna, preferably wild
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon or Meyer lemon
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange or tangerine zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Mayonnaise, Bread And Tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2-inch thick slices crusty bread or your favorite bread
  • 1 ripe medium-large tomato or 6 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 3 wedges of lemon or Meyer lemon


  1. Place the tuna on a small plate. Add 1 teaspoon of the oil, lemon and orange zest, salt and pepper.
  2. In a small skillet heat the remaining teaspoon of oil over moderately high heat. When hot add the tuna, oil and zest from the plate and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on how thick the filet is and how rare or well done you like your tuna. I like it medium-rare (with a thin stripe of red — almost raw — in the center) so I cook it 2 1/2 minutes per side. Remove from the skillet and let cool.
  3. Meanwhile make the mayonnaise: In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon and orange zest, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toast the bread.
  5. Thinly slice the tuna (once it's cooled off). Spread each slice of toast with a little mayonnaise, add tuna to two pieces of toast and the tomatoes on top of the remaining two slices. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice from one of the wedges. Carefully place the toast with the tuna on top of the toast with the tomatoes and cut the sandwich in half. Serve the remaining 2 lemon wedges on the side.
Chef Kathy Gunst's grilled ham and cheese sandwich. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Chef Kathy Gunst's grilled ham and cheese sandwich. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Jeremy's Grown-Up Grilled Ham And Cheese (Italian-Style)

Jeremy grew up favoring grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. I thought I'd up his game by grilling Prosciutto di Parma, Genoa salami, fresh mozzarella and a simple olive salad and sun-dried tomatoes.

Makes 2 large sandwiches.

Sandwich Ingredients

  • Four 1/2- to 1-inch thick slices crusty bread
  • 2 ounces prosciutto
  • 2 ounces Genoa or your favorite salami
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices
  • 1/3 cup olive salad*
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

*Look for Sicilian olive salad in the specialty section of your supermarket or an Italian specialty food market, or make your own.

Olive Salad Ingredients (If You're Making Your Own)

  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pitted black olives, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, very finely chopped
  • 1 small clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Pinch oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground pepper

Olive Salad Instructions

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients. Taste for seasoning. The salad will keep in a tightly sealed jar for up to five days. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Sandwich Instructions

  1. Place the bread on a clean work surface. Divide the prosciutto and salami on two slices of bread. Divide the cheese on the remaining two slices of bread. Divide the olive salad between the two slices of bread with the meat and divide the tomatoes (four each) on top of the cheese slices of bread. Carefully place the slices of bread with the cheese and tomatoes on top of the meat slices and press down.
  2. In a medium skillet heat the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the sandwiches and cook about 3 minutes. Very gently flip the sandwich over, pressing down, and cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the bread is golden brown. Remove from heat and carefully cut in half. Serve hot.
Chef Kathy Gunst's chicken salad sandwich with watercress mayonnaise. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Chef Kathy Gunst's chicken salad sandwich with watercress mayonnaise. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Chicken Salad Sandwich With Watercress Mayonnaise

Chicken salad sandwiches makes me think of my grandmother and special occasions in New York City growing up. She used to take me to a small tea house in midtown where the chicken salad was served on toasted white bread with watercress leaves.

This is my grown-up version: the bright, tangy flavor of watercress mayonnaise gives this chicken salad a delicious lift. Pile it on toasted bread (whole grain, whole wheat, white or your favorite). Use homemade or leftover cooked chicken, or deli-roasted chicken. Makes 4 sandwiches.


  • 2 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup loosely packed stemmed watercress
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 slices your favorite bread, see above
  • Watercress or lettuce for the sandwiches


  1. Place the chicken and the onion in a large bowl.
  2. Puree the watercress in a food processor or blender until finely chopped, scraping down the sides to incorporate any stray greens. Add the mayonnaise, and puree again until well blended and very green. Season the watercress mayonnaise with the lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and add it to the chicken mixture. Stir to coat all of the pieces with the mayonnaise.
  3. Lightly toast the bread and divide the salad between 4 slices. Add the watercress to the remaining 4 slices and invert the bread with the watercress on top of the bread with the chicken salad. Cut in half and serve.

A Few More Sandwich Favorites

  • Slices of fresh mozzarella with basil leaves, thick slices of ripe tomato and garlic aioli on crusty baguette.
  • Roasted vegetable sandwich on sourdough drizzled with green sauce or pesto.
  • A classic PB&J on good white bread.
  • Tuna salad on rye bread with sliced cheddar cheese and a layer of potato chips.
  • Shrimp or lobster salad with capers, celery and lemon and/or lime juice on toasted white.
  • Fresh tuna salad with wasabi, mayonnaise, thinly sliced radishes and crisp lettuce leaves on whole wheat.
  • Tuna sandwich with anchovies, pitted olives and thinly sliced raw fennel on crusty baguette.
  • Chicken salad mixed with mayonnaise and mango chutney on whole wheat.
  • Chicken salad mixed with grapes and toasted walnuts on a whole-wheat tortilla.
  • Chicken sandwich with garlic aioli, lettuce and tomatoes on ciabatta.
  • Roast turkey, bacon and quick-pickled red onions on rye or ciabatta.
  • Roast turkey with coleslaw and Russian dressing (mayonnaise, ketchup and chopped capers) on biscuits or whole-wheat toast.
  • Fried egg and bacon sandwich with ripe avocado slices on biscuits.
  • Pulled pork sandwiches with barbecue sauce on biscuits.
  • Roast pork or roast beef with thinly sliced cheddar cheese and pickled red onions on a baguette.
  • Meatball sub on crusty Italian bread.
  • Cheddar, bacon and apple slices on brown bread.
  • Gruyere, prosciutto and roasted red pepper panini on white bread.
  • Thinly sliced rare roast beef with watercress, thin slices of cheddar cheese and horseradish and mayonnaise on pumpernickel.
  • Steak sandwich with pickled red onions, tomato, avocado, lettuce and grainy mustard on a baguette.
  • Salami, Parmesan shavings, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes with oil and vinegar on a crusty roll.
  • A collection of tea sandwiches: goat cheese or cream cheese and thinly sliced peeled seedless cucumbers on crustless brown bread; cream cheese, chopped nuts and arugula or watercress on seedless multigrain; open-faced smoked salmon slices with scallion cream cheese on crustless white bread with paper-thin lemon slices; butter and thinly sliced radish sandwiches on dark crustless bread; thinly sliced cheddar cheese and mango chutney on brown bread; mascarpone and jam with sliced strawberries on crustless white bread.

This segment aired on April 12, 2018.

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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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