I don’t really understand the expression that something is “to die for.” Forget that! If something is really good, it’s worth living for!
I live for the simple pleasures in life, which include, among other things, the joy of fresh seasonal eating. Yesterday, for example, I made a couple of tomato sandwiches (one for me, one for Martine). This is one of my summertime favorites, for a reason I will tell in a future post. Usually my ultimate summer tomato sandwiches don’t make an appearance until August, when the local crop is at its tastiest, but I managed to find some local hot-house tomatoes that were almost as good as the out-doorsy ones, so I went for it.
The trick is to let the tomato do the talking. Don’t over-embellish it with fluffy froo-froos and strong-tasting this and that. Let the tomato be the star of the show, with a few simple supporting players, as follows:
It must be toasted. Choose a nice easily-toastable bread such as a country-style miche or a nice whole-wheat loaf. Don’t use dark pumpernickel or similar untoastable breads (those are great for other things, but not for the ultimate tomato sandwich).
Only a fresh, red, plump tomato will do. Forget about those perfect-looking tomatoes you see “on the vine” in the grocery stores. Those are a modified breed that were created to look good and to ship without getting damaged. Their flavour is not brilliant. They’re acceptable in winter, when there is nothing else available, but to buy those in summer is like going to a restaurant in Bordeaux and ordering a bottle of wine from Argentina.* Also, the tomato should be room-temperature, not cold from the fridge. One good-sized tomato will make two sandwiches.
The Supporting Players
A bit of mayonnaise is essential. You can use a “light” mayo if you prefer, but only if it is Hellman’s or Kraft (other light mayos are awful). Never use an “ultra-light” mayonnaise, as it is essentially just corn starch and water. Salt and pepper are essential, and the pepper must be freshly-ground. Ideally, the salt is something coarse, like fleur de sel. Basil is important, but don’t over-do it — this isn’t a pesto sandwich. Use no more than two medium leaves (chopped up) per sandwich. Finally, add one crisp piece of lettuce (the lettuce is there for a contrasting texture, so if your lettuce isn’t crisp, don’t bother with it).
The Secret Ingredient
Four drops of good-quality balsamic vinegar, carefully applied, can elevate this sandwich to gastronomic levels beyond expectation. Don’t drown it — seriously, just four drops per sandwich.
– Toast the bread
– Slice the tomato
– Mayo the toast
– Layer the sliced tomato on the toast
– Season with salt and pepper, and chopped basil
– Carefully apply four drops of balsamic vinegar
– Add one piece of crisp lettuce.
– Top with second piece of mayo’ed toast, and slice on the diagonal.
Serve outdoors, with a chilled glass of rosé. Mmmm, summery goodness!
* Yes, there are many fine wines from Argentina, and when you are in Argentina you should drink them. But when you’re in Bordeaux, order a Bordeaux!