Category Archives: tomato sandwich

Ode to Summer – 2019

The verb “slather” was coined specifically to describe putting mayonnaise on bread for a tomato sandwich. Linguists and the dictionary may disagree, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I can never let the Summer Solstice pass without once again expressing my joy at the advent of the season. The Great Gatsby is pulled off the shelf for its annual reading and the bounty of the various farmers markets and highway farm stands becomes increasingly diverse and delectable. The sun rises early and sets well into the evening, giving the heat of the day plenty of time to build in intensity.

The occasional pop-up shower or passing thunderstorm cool things down for a moment, yielding to a sultry steamy aftermath.

The summer tomato sandwich is a seasonal standby once more, its structure changing, based on what other ingredients are available to adorn it. Ripening tomatoes are lined up on the kitchen counter to lend inspiration to another juicy lunch from local farms. It is hard to choose from all of the varieties available; this week, my counter sports more conventional red tomatoes instead of the always tempting heirlooms available to select in cardboard boxes at several of the booths.

A loaf of 10-grain bread from the Mennonite ladies provides two slices to slather with mayonnaise. One slice is topped with several slices of tomato while the other is covered with a layer of basil leaves from the back yard herb garden and crumbles of chipotle pimento cheese from Humble Heart Farms, my favorite purveyor of local goat cheese (www.humbleheartfarms.com). A paper-thin slice of onion tops the basil and cheese. Before the sandwich is assembled, the tomatoes are topped with a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Finally, after heating a couple of pats of butter in the iron skillet, the sandwich is pressed and cooked until both sides are golden brown.

I pour a glass of iced tea and sit down for lunch at the plant-filled table in the back room that I use as a library, looking out over the lush green growth of my compact back yard beyond. To be honest, by August that “lush green growth” will be trending brown (if recent summers are an indicator), but my relish of the summer months will not be diminished. Today’s sandwich is a quick and delicious way to celebrate the local tomatoes and to cherish the vibrant first days of the official summer season.

Have a great summer.

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Tomato Sandwich

DSCN0367 There are many things to love about sultry summer weather and one of them is the opportunity to check out the farmers markets that spring up from spring to fall. When I go to a farmer’s market, I don’t go to linger and socialize; I go to do my business and move on. My typical routine is to make the rounds of all the stalls – making a mental note of what looks good this week – and then to make one more pass to make my purchases and leave. My typical trip to a farmers market takes about fifteen minutes.

That is not to say that I am completely antisocial at the market. There are purveyors that I have seen for years now and have come to know and we always catch up with each other. But there are usually other customers to be served and I don’t like to take up too much of their time so we speak, quickly share any news, and promise to see each other next week.

Today at a local market there were beginning to be tomatoes. By midsummer the tomatoes will be abundant but now, in late spring, good local tomatoes are just beginning to appear. Today it was clearly time to make the first tomato sandwiches of the season.

I have always known tomato sandwiches but I find that I still occasionally get a puzzled look when I mention them to certain people. For those of us who have known them from childhood, there is no standard way to build a tomato sandwich and everybody has evolved a preferred technique over time. My tomato sandwiches are constantly changing based on my tastes and what is available.

The essential ingredients for a tomato sandwich are a tomato, bread, and mayonnaise. The rest is up to taste and imagination. I always challenge myself to use only the freshest available local ingredients.

I usually buy larger tomatoes and I look for them to be less ripe so they will last. Today, however, a Cullman County farm was displaying small to medium size ripe red tomatoes that I knew were destined to go home with me and to be the star of my first tomato sandwich of the season.

I grabbed a loaf of Mrs. London’s bread that was made this morning. It is a fluffy soft bread that I have been buying for years now. Mrs. London’s bread is about the best I’ve ever tasted. There were sweet red spring onions at another stand and I always buy a container of Humble Heart Farms goat cheese; my flavor of choice this week was the Mediterranean blend.

DSCN0361I was ready to go home and make a late afternoon lunch of local ingredients, starring the tomato.

As I walked into my back yard, I plucked some basil off the plants growing near the back gate, went into the house, and began to assemble the ingredients for a sandwich.

Mrs. London’s bread needs a bit of toasting to take on the load of a soggy tomato sandwich so I started the oven, cut off two generous slices of bread, and toasted it on both sides.

The tomatoes were sliced, the basil leaves were washed and picked, and the red onion was sliced into slivers. When the bread was toasted, I generously slathered mayonnaise (Blue Plate or Duke’s work just fine) and sprinkled some goat cheese on top of the mayonnaise.  Basil leaves were layered onto the mayonnaise and goat cheese. A drop of lemon was squeezed over the basil.

Next the onion was spread over the basil. Then slices of tomato were generously layered, completely covering one of the slices of bread, with salt and pepper added at the end.

After I pressed the two slices of bread and ingredients together, I drizzled olive oil over the top slice and let the sandwich sit for a few minutes so the ingredients could meld. I ate it with some fresh strawberries from the farmers market and a big glass of iced tea.

The first day of summer is still a couple of weeks away, but the first tomato sandwich of the season tastes like summer to me. And, except for the mayonnaise and olive oil, everything I ate came from farms within twenty-five miles of my basil in the back yard.

Eat fresh and local this summer. DSCN0354