Fried Kielbasa, Fenneled Pear & Arugula on Cinnamon-Cardamom Toast

I had the most amazing pear and arugula salad at A Voce in the Time Warner Center with my sister last weekend. It was so refreshing and addictive, I told the guys at the table sitting next to us to get it too. (They seemed to be happy they did.) What sent it over the top was the fennel on it—not the fresh vegetable kind, but the powdered fennel-seed kind—which gave it a caramelly flavor. We ended up wrapping the pear slices in proscuitto from another appetizer. I do love my sweet and savory—sooo good.

This week’s Sandwich Surprise is a tribute to Chef Missy Robbins’s super-snacky dish.


I also brought in a flavor profile from a sandwich I used make for myself when I worked at Willoughby’s Coffee & Tea in Connecticut back in the ’90s. (They have the freshest and most flavorful beans in the world. Truly. I still buy roast-to-order batches from them.) A fellow barista named Gary made homemade air-dried sausages called soupi (not sure about the spelling), and I would eat them sliced and nuked on toasted cinnamon-raisin bagels. I’d pick out the raisins though.

If you want to make the Cinnamon-Cardamom Bread, skip to the recipe below first. Or you can buy cinnamon-raisin or cinnamon bread for the quick version, and toast it when you’re ready to assemble the sammy.

For the filling, you’ll need:

1 package of kielbasa
2 pears, peeled and sliced thinly (I used organic red and green Anjous)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 bag or container of arugula, washed and spun or dried
1/2 lb. of a hard, nutty cheese, sliced — I got Sartori Bellavitano Gold, a salty, nutty, buttery wedge in the style of Italian farmstead cheese from a Wisconsin cheesemaker

Cost: About $21 (you can bring this down with a cheaper cheese) for 4 servings.

Slice the kielbasa into 3-inch sections, and then lengthwise into thirds or quarters, depending upon the width of the sausage. Peel the casing off the slices. Fry without oil, flipping until the meat is brown on both sides.


(Please ignore the fact that I cut the kielbasa into discs in this photo; in this test batch, I totally forgot that lengthwise would be easier to eat in a sammy.)

Sprinkle dashes of the ground fennel seed on both sides of each pear slice. I wouldn’t suggest coating the entire surface of the pear, otherwise the fennel may overwhelm the sammy.

Toast the bread. Place two layers of the thin, fenneled pear slices on one piece of toast …


… followed by one layer of kielbasa.


Next, place the slices of hard cheese (I went with 2 layers), and put a handful of arugula on top. Place the other piece of toast on top and you’re ready to eat!

Today, I Sandwich Surprised two folks. One was Joe, a security guard from the neighborhood who was out patrolling a parking lot in the snow.


“I’m definitely surprised,” said Joe, after I explained why I had a foil-covered treat for him. He unwrapped the sandwich, and alas, I didn’t do a great job making it portable: Baby arugula fell all over the parking lot.

I told him what was in the sammy, and he nodded in approval. “I eat anything,” he said, and stuffed a bite into his mouth. “This is good. What cheese did you use?”

“Sartori, this Italian-style hard cheese from Wisconsin,” I said.

“Wisconsin, huh?” Joe said, brightening. “I could tell you used a high-quality cheese.” He took another bite. “It’s sweet too.”

“Yeah, that’s the cinnamon in the bread,” I said.

“I like this,” he said. “Thanks for the sandwich. I’m out here until 9pm tonight, and I can use all the resources I can get.”

The other Sandwich Surprisee was my friend and new mom, Rebecca, out in Queens.


“I would order this in a restaurant,” Rebecca said. “I adore cardamom and cinnamon, but I never thought to use cardamom on savory dishes. It’s great because it’s the first thing you smell and the last thing you taste. The cheese is amazing, and the pear gives it a nice cold bite against the warm kielbasa. I don’t have anything negative to say about it. You could put a fried egg on this and make it the best breakfast sandwich ever.”

That’s the sandwich axiom: Fried egg makes everything better. Any additions you out there would make? Let me know!


6.5 cups organic all-purpose flour
1.5 T. organic yeast
3 cups lukewarm water, filtered
Approx. 2 t. organic all-purpose flour for dusting

Cinnamon-Cardamom Filling:
5 green cardamom pods
3/4 t. organic cinnamon
4 T. organic sugar

Cost: About $6.50.

Mix the yeast, salt and sugar with the water in a large lidded container, and let stand for 20 minutes to get the yeast going. Then mix the flour into the yeast water with a spoon. Work in any remaining dry bits with your hands, wetting them first and adding water to the dry flour a tablespoon at a time, only as needed, and being careful not to overwork the dough.

Cover the container by lightly resting the lid on top, but not actually sealing it, and let it rest for 2 hours until it rises, then flattens on top. Then stick it in the fridge for at least an hour to make it easier to work with. The batch of bread I made this morning was from a dough that’s been in the fridge for 7 days, so it had a slight sourdough thing happening. But the cinnamon-cardamom sugar balanced that out.

Preheat oven to 450˚ about 40 minutes before baking. Place a broiler pan on a rack not being used for the bread. And if you have a baking stone handy, place it on the center rack.

For the cinnamon-cardamom filling, remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and discard the shells. Grind into a powder using a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. Combine with the sugar and cinnamon.

Dust the top of the dough with some flour and pull off about 1/4 of it into a 1 lb., small melon-sized chunk. Drizzle the spice sugar all over the outside of the dough and fold and refold the dough until the sugar is worked in. And then drizzle sugar over the new outside of the dough and repeat. You can continue to do this until all the spice sugar is worked in, or if you want a less sweet loaf, use 1/2 to 2/3 of the spice sugar.

Let it rest and rise for at least 30 minutes on a Silpat baking pad lightly dusted with flour (or a pizza peel dusted with flour, should you have one handy), preferably on the stove so it’s getting some of the ambient heat. Then sprinkle with some more flour and using a serrated knife to mark an X on the top of the loaf-to-be.

Put the dough and Silpat in a baking pan and stick it on the center rack in the oven (or slide the dough ball from the pizza peel onto the baking stone). Also make sure to pour a cup of water in the broiler pan to create a steam effect.

Bake it for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven. Take the loaf out and let it cool until you can hold the loaf comfortably, then use the serrated bread knife to cut 1/4″ slices for the toast.


The smell of cinnamon bread filling the house is a ridiculous mood booster too!