Riddle me this: What if you made a tomato sandwich without the tomato? You know the one I’m talking about: bread, mayo, tomato, salt, pepper, done. It’s easy to think this template hinges on the tomato—but the truth is, lots of vegetables would be happy to hop in. The ingredient need not be glamorous—only in-season, delicious on its own, the stuff vegetable-dreams are made of. Like cucumbers, radishes, artichokes, or, my favorite, asparagus.
This is the sort of recipe you can read once, then never again. I skip the measurements because I don’t believe in measuring something like mayonnaise—spread it with abandon.
Because there are so few components, here’s how to make each really, truly shine: Salt the water generously (the asparagus, bright green and seasoned inside-out, will thank you later). Half a pound of asparagus sounds like a lot, I know, but honestly, that’s the whole point. This only happens once a year. Reach for a deeply flavored loaf, but if you’re unable, toast whatever you’ve got hard, but not so much that you end up with a cracker. If you can only find a standard-size baguette, simply line up the asparagus next to it on a cutting board, then cut the loaf to match the length of the asparagus. Crusty hoagies, sub rolls, or even a long-shaped loaf would also work well here. Though homemade mayo is welcome, it’s by no means necessary—you’re only looking for creamy, rich foundation for the asparagus. And don’t skimp on the vinegar. It wakes up all the other ingredients, and marries them together. —Emma Laperruque
2 open-faced sandwiches
fat asparagus, ends trimmed
asparagus-length demi baguette, halved horizontally like a hamburger bun (see Author Notes for other options), toasted
Bring a pot of water to a boil and generously salt it (estimate 1 tablespoon kosher salt per 1 quart of water). Cook the asparagus for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on its thickness, until it’s just crisp-tender. Use tongs to remove the asparagus to a plate and let cool while you prepare the landing zone. Spread each bread half generously with mayonnaise. Now top each with half of the asparagus, splash with vinegar, and sprinkle with salt (flaky is nice here if you have it) and pepper. Eat immediately, with napkins at the ready.
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.