How to CookDinner, FasterSandwichesSummerInfographicsTomatoes

The Be-All-End-All Tomato Sandwich—& 4 Ways We Couldn't Leave it Alone

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When we offered a defense of simple recipes (some might call them "recipes") a couple weeks back, we didn't take into account one particularity of those recipes in question: By many accounts, overloaded tomato sandwiches are not tomato sandwiches at all.

The Simple Tomato Sandwich That Stirred Up Some Controversy
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The Simple Tomato Sandwich That Stirred Up Some Controversy

Turns out, there's just as much—if not more—consternation involving tomato sandwiches that are needlessly complicated. The beauty, many adamantly believe, is in the minimalist maximalism. It is more because it is less.

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But while we respect the classic and salute the simple, we simply couldn't help ourselves. We let the tomatoes go straight to our heads!

Photo by James Ransom

There's the don't-touch-it Southern tomato sandwich on the very left, yes, and then four others that are a little berserk. They're not competitors, though—they're disciples. They follow the same carby-creamy-tomatoey-salty formula, but they're eccentric. You probably wouldn't want to eat them standing over the sink; some might even ask that you bring out a fork and knife.

There are plenty of staunch and smart 3-ingredient-tomato-sandwich defenders out there. Listen to James Beard Award-winning cookbook author (who we thank, especially, for these Genius Deviled Eggs) Virginia Willis when she says that her

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hands-down, absolute favorite way of eating a tomato in summer is served sliced on white bread with mayonnaise. No chiffonade of basil or tender leaves of oregano. No artisan sourdough bread. No extra virgin olive oil. No hand-pounded garlic aioli. No hand-harvested sea salt. No lemon zest. Not even a slice of crisp, applewood-smoked bacon. Out, out, damn spots of cracked Tellicherry pepper!

Or to Julia, writer of I Believe I Can Fry, who understands that while

it might be hard to fight the urge to add other ingredients like mustard or cheese or pickle slices, [r]esist the urge. Don't add lettuce or bacon—this is a tomato sandwich, not a BLT. [...] I'm sure these changes/additions make some damn fine sandwiches, but it won't make a Southern tomato sandwich. Just sayin'.

Just feel the FOMO laid on thick in the headnote of the 5-star rated Food.com recipe: "If you've only used tomatoes as an accessory in your sandwiches, and not as the Featured Ingredient, you are truly missing summer as it was meant to be tasted." A smack straight to the stomach.

Ready, set, sandwich! Photos by James Ransom

So the cards are stacked against us. Tomatodirt.com lists four known tomato sandwich debates (peeled versus unpeeled, thickness of slices, bread type, mayo type), and now we've added many, many more. Some of the sandwiches above are even best open-faced. (And is an open-faced sandwich really a sandwich at all? ...Is anything sacred?)

So make, try, and enjoy a simple-as-can-be tomato sandwich. And then, if you're with us (we repeat: tomato sandwich police will never know), you can experiment with a few more elaborate versions, too:

We're not the only loopy ones: Ever since tomatoes cropped up at markets, we've been seeing them slapped on and between slices of bread on our (Not)Recipes app, and you're doing wacko things, too: adding dried thyme; using seedy breads, and even pumpernickel; throwing on some mozzarella cheese; swapping mayo for pesto... Quite a few of you add avocado.

220a1191 937e 4a0b a928 1d0237f1d6d0  2016 07 11 17 50 48
Food52
Food52
37
Caroline Lange has a low tolerance for standing by the stove in July (her kitchen, alas, is not air-conditioned). That, plus an abundance of tomatoes and a friend's homemade bread, means the best summer dinner: Good toast, Hellman's mayo, thick tomato slices, and a shower each of salt, pepper, thyme.
1 comments
85c812a0 5da4 40c0 904f c3b180e7ff5e  2016 08 20 18 10 55
Food52
Food52
32
Do you smash your avocado before or after applying it to the bread? Since this bread was so fresh, we had to do pre-mashing, but that's perfect for incorporating salt, mint, and lime juice. Those tomatoes are Garden Peach heirlooms. Look like little fuzzy peaches but, once cut, reveal their tomato-y selves.
F4988dc4 1e3c 4242 b235 f325f3817423  2016 07 20 23 56 34
Sarah
Sarah
3
Famers market no cook dinner:

Sliced tomatoes in good olive oil, salt and a roughly chopped clove of garlic. Eaten on freshly baked whole wheat sunflower and flax seed bread from the cute bakery guy at the farmers market.
6d870f1b 125f 47fa bfc6 850aaad027fa  2016 04 12 19 12 57
Abby Schachter
Abby Schachter
16
Leftover arugula pistachio pesto on thick slice of wheat bread. Fresh mozzarella and tomato, broiled. Arugula and avocado with maple Dijon lemon vinaigrette.
1b7e2fda a15b 468b ad25 4478e8570556  2016 06 29 20 36 25
Mani Lea
Mani Lea
65
Way to hot to cook = open-faced tomato sandwiches: toasted sprouted grain bread, pesto, mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, avocado, basil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
☀️??#summer #notarecipe #simpleanddelicious
78568c99 c1e5 4892 a2f6 f1965db1998c  2016 06 26 15 10 41
Ma'ayan Plaut
Ma'ayan Plaut
28
Tomato sandwiches are all about proportions.

Sourdough, thick tomato slices, mayo, white cheddar, white pepper, lemon salt.
7e637eba fc8b 4438 b020 dd02f3cc85f9  2016 04 19 23 20 53
Kayla Williams
Kayla Williams
11
Ricotta toast 2 ways:

Tomato + balsamic

Honey + cayenne
Fb6d7417 e542 4740 addf 23b2a8e454b0  2016 08 16 14 16 42
Food52
Food52
38
Summertime tomato dinners for 1 also translate into breakfast the next day. Crisp up some thick-sliced seedy bread in a pan with a little mayo on one side, let 'em go for a few minutes, and remove. Let cool slightly, and then add a little more mayo to the non-crisped side and pile on slices of fresh Jersey beefsteaks, then sprinkle on Maldon salt and a few turns of freshly-ground black pepper. Eat most for dinner but save a little for breakfast; it's just as good cold.
5cb6aaa5 5298 4d6b 9e3b 8feb5940bee5  2016 07 22 02 29 03
Laura Albanese
Laura Albanese
41
Avocado toast for dinner anyone? I slathered this with #vegan mayo (Hampton Creek Just Mayo), homemade pesto, smashed avocado and halved cherry tomatoes. Couple cranks of salt and pepper take it to the top ?
Bb125aac 55f5 40ce 8bf3 db8e0d731854  2016 07 26 00 38 25
Lia Albini
Lia Albini
8
Easy and delicious weeknight dinner -- roasted tomatoes, herb goat cheese, toasted sourdough and fresh purple basil from the garden.
5cd83774 e83d 4b2d 80ae 419c750324f3  2016 08 18 19 29 19
Alexis deBoschnek
Alexis deBoschnek
15
Lightly toast thick, country bread, slather in mayo, top with heirloom tomatoes, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and pepper and call it a day.
1 comments
87fde1e8 1d39 4d1a 9fbc 3337ed89c02b  2016 08 20 15 49 57
Joy Belamarich
Joy Belamarich
35
Straight summer lovin'. Ciabatta, hellman's, heirlooms, s&p, basil from my backyard.
D322b3fe 730f 4359 b991 3e67d4c9edc7  2016 08 17 20 47 20
Food52
Food52
45
Contributing Editor Lindsay-Jean Hard's tomato sandwich is just as easy as that other tomato sandwich we were all talking about last week (link below), but there's no arguing that it's delicious.

She toasted bread (pumpernickel, the same size as her tomatoes), smeared it with cream cheese, added tomato slices, and sprinkled them with flaky salt and fresh chives.
2 comments

Luckily, our appetite for tomatoes is such that we'll happily alternate between the super-classic and the super-creative until the changing seasons stop us.

You buy a tomato with the intention of making a sandwich. What's your next move? Tell us in the comments below.