The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make With A Tomato Sandwich

We would never.

Over-the-Top Tomato Sandwich
Whether eaten at a white tablecloth spot or over the kitchen sink, this is the sandwich we wait for all year. Photo: Photo: Hector Sanchez

There's something downright nostalgic about a tomato sandwich. One bite, and you're transported to the wide, creaky porch of a weathered beach house, or whisked away to your favorite countertop perch in your grandmother's kitchen. It's also downright delicious, a sweet reminder of the summer season's glorious bounty. But for something that should be so simple, there are a lot of ways to ruin a tomato sandwich. Here's how to get the Southern favorite just right.

Pick Your Tomato

Choosing the right tomato, of course, is important. It needs to be thick, juicy, and just-right ripe. Not mushy, not mealy. Heirloom tomatoes—the big uglies that vary in color—rarely disappoint. Check out the varieties at your farmer's market if you don't have a garden or generous friends.

Be Generous With the Mayo

It goes without saying, too, that mayonnaise is a non-negotiable. If you know what's good for you, you'll use Duke's, slathering it on both pieces of bread with reckless abandon. A good layer keeps the bread from getting soggy. And calories don't count when it comes to a good tomato sandwich.

Spice It Right

A healthy twist of black pepper and a shake or two of salt dial up that meaty tomato to just the right flavor, and if you grew up with a grandmother like mine, you'll add a teensy pinch of sugar too. That never hurts. Place the seasoned tomatoes on a paper towel for a few minutes to develop flavor if you can wait.

Go for White Bread

A wimpy tomato, or mediocre mayo, or an absence of salt, pepper, and sugar can all lead you down a dark, twisty path towards a sinfully average tomato sandwich, but the mistake that will absolutely, 100-percent, no-doubt-about-it destroy the tastiest hallmark of a Southern summer? The wrong bread.

This is not the time to heed your doctors' warnings about enriched flour or suddenly decide to take up whole grains. This is the time for the thickest, whitest sandwich bread you can find. A couple slices of Sunbeam or Wonder Bread will do the trick. And if you're feeling fancy, Homestyle White Bread from the Publix bakery is a good option too. If the word "enriched" is listed in the ingredients, you've chosen well.

You can toast the bread if you like your tomato sandwich to have a little crunch, but I prefer soft, squishy slices that stick to the roof of my mouth and soak up all the runny juices the tomatoes can muster.

Don't Make It Fancy

A tomato sandwich doesn't need anything else. It sounds too simple, but don't be tempted to add fancy ingredients. That's not what this sandwich is about. This combination has been a long-standing Southern favorite for a reason. It doesn't need fresh herbs or cucumbers. Meat or lettuce make it something else entirely. Let those flavors shine.

Keep the Sides Simple

There's no need to add fuss to something so simple and delicious. Don't spend time whipping up salad and pasta to go with your sandwich. This sandwich is enjoyed without ever setting it down, lest it get soggy on you, and each bite of ripe summer tomato needs to be savored. Add a handful of your favorite potato chips on the side and a sliced pickle if you want to call it a meal. That's it. This juicy sandwich is all you're really going to want anyway.

Sit Down and Enjoy

In the heat of summer, a juicy tomato sandwich is the perfect no-cook meal. A treat if I'm being honest. A good tomato sandwich is all about where you eat it too: Plop your finished sandwich on a paper plate, or better yet, a paper towel, and take it outside to the front steps or the back porch, where you can revel in that summery deliciousness without worrying for a second about making a mess. After all, if it's not a little messy, it's no tomato sandwich we want to eat.

How do you like your summertime tomatoes: Fried and green, or plopped on a sandwich? Share your favorite tomato recipes with us in the comments.

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