“Just add salt”. Salt brings out the best in tomatoes, which draws out and intensifies their inherent flavor. That’s one of the things I value most about tomatoes, for they are simple enough to season and cook, yet remain one of summer’s finest delicacies. Sandwiches are an everyday staple in my life, so I wanted to create a sandwich that highlighted the simplicity of the tomato, but one that also possessed the tried-and-true tomato-basil flavor affinity. I have found that when you make a vegetable sandwich of any nature, you need a base bread that will house the necessary sandwich accompaniments, while being balanced in terms of a crisp outside softer interior. Truffle salt and a drizzle of arbequina olive oil give this sandwich some additional pizzazz.
When I made these sandwiches, summer had not quite faded to fall, and my kitchen still boasted an ample bounty of heirloom tomatoes from the Garden Street Farmer’s Market in Uptown Hoboken. My model for this sandwich was based on Vivian Howard’s “ultimate tomato sandwich”, in the television show A Chef’s Life. Vivian is a former chef from New York City, who returned home to her native North Carolina roots in Kinston to open a farm-to-table restaurant of her own: Chef & The Farmer. The bulk of the show centers around the relationships Vivian cultivates with local Carolina farmers, from which she is able to source about 70% of her restaurant food. The tomato was the focal point of a particular episode that I watched and she crafted a tomato sandwich with a corn-smoked aioli, Cherokee Purple tomatoes, pickled onions, all nestled comfortably on a round of homemade onion bread.
My tomato sandwich version is infinitely simpler as I did not do any pickling or aioli making, but I was able to find the ideal bread for the sandwich from Hoboken Farms. Their name for it is the ‘Hoboken Donut’, a large, round roll with a hole in the middle, ideal for slicing and toasting for tomato sandwiches. I spread a generous coating of Hellman’s mayonnaise onto the bread, followed by a meticulously placed layer of red heirloom tomatoes, topped with full basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of truffle salt (one of my favorite ingredients, possibly ever). The salt serves it’s purpose: enhancing the flavor of the tomatoes while adding some flavor of its own; while a bite into the crisp bread with a smattering of mayonnaise, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and their basil counterparts round out in this Hoboken Heirloom Tomato Sandwich.
Hoboken Heirloom Tomato Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Vivian Howard on A Chef’s Life
Makes 8 open-faced sandwiches
1 Hoboken Donut (or bread of your choice)
2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
Truffle salt (any salt will do)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Toast bread until the top turns golden-brown. Spread mayonnaise first, top with a layer of heirloom tomatoes, followed by truffle salt, basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, and dash or two of freshly ground pepper.
Serve open-faced, as I did, to create the illusion that there is more food in front of you than there actually is.