Monday, August 9, 2010

The Perfect Tomato Sandwich

Now I'm not going to tell you what THE perfect tomato sandwich is, because that, my friends, is a highly personal subject. What might be MY perfect sandwich might not be anywhere near what YOUR perfect sandwich is.

This person's sandwich...

Isn't anything like this person's sandwich.

Or this sandwich....

The perfect tomato sandwich can be toasted or untoasted, plain or with meat, dressed up, or dressed down. There are only two tips I will give you. The tomato is very important. You need a home grown or local heirloom variety tomato, not one of those come-from-far-away tomatoes, and not a hybrid. And for efficiencies sake, it should be sandwich sized. You can even stack two thin slices of different varieties or colors. And secondly, the bread, dressing and seasoning does make up the other half, so they can make or break a sandwich.

I've tried various combinations. Starting with a BLT, I've discarded the useless lettuce, and enjoyed thick hot slices of home grown bacon. (Save the grease, you'll need it in the fall for fried green tomatoes.) I've wavered back and forth between Miracle Whip and Mayonnaise. I've tried multi-grain, sourdough and good ole Italian breads. And I've done a fair amount of experimentation with different varieties of heirloom tomatoes. I've ruined tee shirts when juice skidded down my chin, and mooshed some tomatoes when a proper knife could not be found. I've eaten tomato sandwiches for over 30 years, and here is what I've found.

Start with some fresh Italian bread, either sliced or in a peasant loaf. Choose a vine ripened tomato of your favorite variety. My favorites are #1 my PaPaw's Barlow Jap #2 Ananas Noir (Black Pineapple) #3 Pineapple and #4 Black Krim which has a unique smokey flavor that blends marvelously with bacon. Slice a sandwich sized slice right out of the middle, using a serrated knife so you don't crush the tomato. There's nothing I hate worse than having to piece together the tomato to fit the bread and loosing a chunk towards the end. Spread a light layer of Hellman's Mayonnaise on each slice, sprinkle some seasoning on, and assemble your sandwich, slicing it down the middle for easy handling.

Some people season their sandwiches with just salt and pepper. Some prefer fancy seasoned sea salt. Others add fresh herbs, particularly basil. My personal favorite is Borsari seasoned salt. This is a sea salt with fresh garlic and herbs. It's made by a lifelong friend of mine whose grandmother brought the recipe with her from Emilia, Italy, and passed it down to him. I've enjoyed this salt in many of his dishes over the years, and have recently learned to cook with it myself. I also add a sprinkle of dried oregano to suit my taste.

Most slicing sized tomatoes will yield two sandwiches. Since refrigeration breaks down their sugar content and makes them taste awful, I've found that a sliced tomato will keep just fine for a day at room temperature if you put it sliced side down on a glass cutting board or dish. I generally save the shoulders for supper, and cube them up for a salad.

So there you have it. My idea of the perfect tomato sandwich, shown here with the first Ananas Noir of the season. Due to the hot summer, and the even hotter micro-climate of my garden, tomato sandwich season has started a full 28 days early! I've always marveled at the fact that I will work and wait and worry for four and a half months from the planting of the first seed until the slicing of the first tomato. This year was only three and a half months! But that's still a short estimate. I wait from the first frost in November, until the first juicy, warm, ripe tomato in August. Nine long months for that first perfect tomato sandwich.

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