The Tomato Sandwich…a Celebration of Real Tomatoes and Late Summer.

In the Pacific Northwest, August and September is when the hefty 90 day heirloom tomatoes, like the brandywines, come ripe.


It’s time to talk of tomato sandwiches, that celebration of tomatoes and summer between two slices of bread.  The tomato sandwich I lust after all winter has a thick slice of tomato that goes across the slice of bread. I can’t think of  any food that expresses summer more than a tomato sandwich made with a homegrown or farmer’s market tomato, a real tomato. The supermarket tomato is grown to be shipped 3000 miles any time of the year and to have a three week shelf life. Taste gets left behind. A tomato sandwich celebrates the real tomato and its late summer season. We have waited.

I asked on Facebook how people make their tomato sandwich. The forty-five responses were passionate, opinionated. A good number had a “recipe” that had been in the family for multiple generations, most often simply two slices of white bread, mayo, sometimes butter, and salt and pepper.  Repondents fell into two bread camps…a high quality crusty slow-proofed artisanal bread and mass produced “enriched” white bread.

I fall into both camps.  I enjoy tomato sandwiches made with great crusty artisanal bread, lightly toasted or not. However a tomato sandwich made with great bread is as much about the bread as the tomato. Good bread, especially chewy good textured bread actually gets in the way of the tomato. The tomato shares the stage with the bread, not a bad thing, but if  I want to get down  with a great tomato, I go for the “stays-fresh-longer”, no-taste white bread.

The bread has no flavor… a good thing. When you bite into a white bread tomato sandwich the bread disappears on your palate, literally disappears, leaving the tomato texture and taste full on


Two slices of white bread.

Slather of butter (because…)

Best Foods mayo (Hellman’s on the East Coast, Dukes in the South)

Thick (1/2″) slice of tomato. Juiciness and needing a napkin is an essential part of the experience. The tomato slice should cover the slice of bread.

Sea salt and black pepper.


Make the sandwich.

Cut the sandwich in two for an appetizing view of the bite to come.

Enjoy! You’ll neet a napkin.

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19 Responses to The Tomato Sandwich…a Celebration of Real Tomatoes and Late Summer.

  1. Tags says:

    My favorite tomato sandwich is a triple decker – my hand, a slice of tomato, a sprinkle of salt.

  2. janis33 says:

    Oh yum. Yum! I have never put butter on a tomato sandwich. I will have to try that.

    What is is about a perfect tomatoe that evokes such emotion? I actually have a perfume that I wear that is called “A Memory of Kindness” The smell? “The shining green scent of tomato vines growing in the fresh earth of a country garden”. So what is it about a simple tomato? When you figure it out let me know ok?

    • Butter is optional. I use a slather of butter half the time with mayo. Sometimes I omit the mayo and only use butter, sometimes just mayo. Always a great tomato.

      I love your question, “what is it about a perfect tomato that evokes such emotions?” Love also your olfactory image. Scent is the most evocative of the senses.

  3. janis33 says:

    Please remove the e off of tomato. I didn’t do that. Really, I didn’t do that.

  4. says:

    thanks for standing for the usefulness of white bread, the other ingredients are perfect.

  5. Thanks. I actually can’t believe I’m defending industrially baked soft white bread. I just don’t like the idea of it but, with no taste or texture. it performs beautifully in a tomato sandwich.

    • There is no reason a simply baked loaf of bread doesn’t satisfy on this one. The recipe on a King Arthur Bread flour bread will blow the doors off any bread with extenders. Especially if it’s just cooled from the oven with it’s natural sweetness still in check. As will the Pullman Loaf recipe in Joy of cooking. Source of the white bread aside, you’re spot on!

      • Thanks for reading. You are right, of course. Two inspired friends, including Salty Seattle, invited me over for THEIR tomato sandwiches with THEIR fresh baked white bread. We are coming to an understanding of “tomato sandwich bread”, bread that doesn’t get in the way of the tomato with too much artisanal structure but, as my two friends have aptly demonstrated. can still exhibit the warmth and humanity of home-baked bread.Thanks for the recipe references. Except for pies. I’m not a baker but I’m feeling inspired.

  6. Tags says:

    I wouldn’t say you’re defending white bread so much as demonstrating how effective the food companies are at making white bread et ilk seem like an automatic “go to.” They should be effective, what with all the money they’re spending to place their “food” under our radar.

  7. saltyseattle says:

    I know it’s hardcore sacrilege to some, but a great and yet still bland sandwich bread can be made quite easily if you’ve got 2 hours, some potatoes, buttermilk, & flour. That being said, I’ve been tomato sandwich OBSESSED this summer. I’ve even been making tomato sandwich pizzas.

  8. Pingback: Your Perfect Tomato Sandwich « Emmy Cooks

  9. Kathy says:

    Thanks for the inspiration, Jon! Made a loaf of white sandwich bread (siding with Eric on this front), stole a little Kerrygold butter from my pie-making stash and slathered on that, as well as some olive oil mayo. Assembled with an inch thick slice of tomato at lunchtime. Nothing could have been better!

  10. Tags says:

    I just came across the May/June 2012 issue of “Urban Farm” magazine and they have an article written by Rick gush called “Torture Your Tomatoes.” In the article he says that the stress caused by withholding water or using small amounts of salt water forces the tomatoes to compensate by producing more flavor compounds and antioxidants. Some studies show that this works on other fruits and vegetables, too. Have you heard anything about this?

    • Thanks for the reference. I look forward to reading Rick Gush’s article. The subject may have too many variables, probably hundreds depending on varieties, climate, growing technique, soil and each farm or garden. to make generalizations, but I’d have to agree with the premise that withholding water, or “dry farming” can produce better tomatoes. Watering tomatoes makes for a shallow root system; withhold water and the roots will go find it If the water table is within reach. Given good soil, the more soil the roots travel through. the more nutrients the plant absorbs. I’m not familiar the the salt water idea. Makes sense if the salt water is sea water. Lots of trace minerals if the plant can deal with the salt.

      Photosynthesis is the plant’s job, Everything manufactured in the plant uses the glucose molecule as the chemical building block. You can measure the success of the plant with a refractometer. No question higher Brix tomatoes taste better. Photosynthesis is extremely complicated. Water in excess of the plant’s needs shuts down photosynthesis. That is why watering can dilute flavor.

  11. Yes the principle applies to other fruits and vegetable. (I am most familiar with peaches.) Balancing a plant’s photosynthetic needs (each plant is different) with watering is the art of farming and gardening and the basis for flavor.

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