Here’s to the Noble Tomato

We’ve been experiencing a relatively cool Spring here in the southeastern U. S., so I really haven’t yet transitioned completely into my traditional summertime state of mind.  However, it appears as if this situation may be about to change as the weatherman is predicting daily high temperatures in the mid-90s by the middle of the coming week.

Those lazy, hazy, crazy, hot, and sticky days of summer can’t be far off now!
That also means that it won’t be very long before I’m once again enjoying that ubiquitous southern culinary classic, the Tomato Sandwich.  NOTE: To avoid confusing my readers, I chose to use the common spelling which Miss Bradshaw, my 4th grade teacher, would have approved.  But as any connoisseur of this delicacy will tell you, it’s more commonly known as the “Mater Sam’ich.”

Did you know that prior to the 1500’s, the tomato was unknown in Europe?   Makes me wonder what the Italians were eating up until then.  Spanish Conquistadors discovered the tomato when they conquered the Aztecs.  They apparently understood how it could be used to enhance and improve pizza, so they brought some plants back with them when they returned to the Old World.

For some reason however, English settlers in North America believed that tomatoes were poisonous and continued to do so well into the 1700’s.  This historical tidbit, combined with the fact that the tomato is actually a fruit – not a vegetable as most folks believe, makes the tomato among the most misunderstood of items found in the produce section at your local  grocery store.

I don’t know if the Aztecs enjoyed mater sam’ichs or not, but I sure do.  And over the years, through much pseudo-scientific trial and error, I’ve developed the recipe for making the absolutely perfect sam’ich.

I grew up making them using white bread, but my health conscious wife has convinced (or was it coerced) me to switch to wheat bread.  You know – that brown stuff, what I used to call sawdust bread.  I’m pleased to report that the use of sawdust bread seems to have no detrimental effects on the quality of the final product.
The first step in achieving mater sam’ich heaven is the spreading of a liberal portion of Duke’s mayonnaise on both pieces of bread.  As far as I’m concerned there is only one true mayonnaise.  That would be Duke’s.  All other brands pale in comparison.  Created by Greenville, South Carolina’s Miss Eugenia Duke in 1917, Duke’s contains no sugar which enhances it’s flavor to a level far beyond that which is found among its competitors.

Step two is to generously salt the mayonaise on both pieces of bread, then repeat the process with black pepper.  Next, I place at least two slices of tomato on the bread.  Depending on the diameter of the tomato slices, I sometimes cut a third slice in half, placing one half on the sam’ich.  My objective is simply to cover the bread/mayonnaise surface as completely as possible with tomato.

Now comes the step which both my wife and the American Heart Association can not countenance.  I generously salt the tomatoes, but only the exposed top surface.  Why?  Because I’ve found that just a bit more salt is needed to provide the perfect balance of flavors.

Finally, the pièce de résistance, slap the remaining slice of bread on top and “Voilà! ” – you have the perfect mater sam’ich!  These go great with some chips and a tall glass of sweet iced tea.

Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m going to run downstairs and make me one, or maybe two, right now!

Enjoy and have a great  summer!


Simple Fare for a Friday Evening

As I was driving home from work this evening, it suddenly dawned on me that I was going to be on my own for dinner. My spouse is visiting her family this weekend and my work schedule kept me from joining her, so I found myself in the position of having to come up with something appropriate to fill the gullet.

I recalled that some of the homemade chili which I had whipped up earlier in the week was still in the refrigerator awaiting ingestion, but somehow that just didn’t appeal. Everything else that I could think of was still in a rock-hard frozen state and I wasn’t really warming up to the alternative of having to thaw something out. Pun intended.
My culinary quandary was short-lived as I rapidly came to the conclusion that this was going to be “Sub Night in the Big City!”

My current Sub sandwich of choice is the “Vito” which can only be obtained from your friendly neighborhood Jimmy John’s, home of the world’s greatest gourmet sandwiches since 1983. Or so their slogan states.

The Vito, in my humble opinion, is handcrafted with the perfect blend of genoa salami, provolone, capicola, onion, lettuce, and tomato; which is then topped off with a tasty Italian vinaigrette. Special thanks to the Jimmy John’s web site for that rundown on the ingredients.
When ordering a sub sandwich, I always go for the combo. This, as every fast food aficionado knows, includes chips and a drink which together provide a harmonious balance to one’s meal.

Jimmy John’s chips are simply outstanding. They are the kettle style of chips which provide your mouth and teeth with a real workout of munchy goodness; as long as one avoids breaking a tooth in the process. As far as I’m concerned, the only chips worth eating are the BBQ variety. Enough said.
After arriving home with my combo meal in hand, I remembered that there as an alternative beverage in the `fridge which actually would pair much better with my Vito than the Cherry Coke I had initially opted for.

My youngest son recently moved out of state. While in the process of moving, he had failed to take along a bottle of St. Bernadus Belgian Abbey Ale which he had purchased shortly before his departure.

His loss, as the saying goes, was to prove to be my gain!

I’m sure that St. Bernadus would agree that his delightful brew is the perfect malt beverage to enjoy along with a Jimmy John’s Vito.

I’m also quite confident that the good Saint would have recognized a father’s obligation to purge the refrigerator of rogue bottles of malt beverages from time to time! For reasons of maintaining a sanitary environment within the refrigerator, if nothing else!



Time to Open Up a Fresh Box of Oats

For me, one of the surest indicators that autumn has finally begun to exercise its influence over the weather is the return of an undeniable urge for a bowl of oatmeal.

There’s just something comforting about digging into a steaming bowl of that semi-gelatinous goodness when the air outside is cool and crisp and seems to whisper, “Time to pull out the sweaters!

Whereas grits, another breakfast stalwart, can be eaten year round; I just can’t seem to generate any real culinary interest in oatmeal until warm temperatures and Indian Summers are safely receding in the rearview mirror.

I’m a purist when it comes to preparing oatmeal.  Just as the 1516 Bavarian Reinheitsgebot law mandated that beer must be brewed using only the ingredients of water, hops, and barley; I believe that oatmeal, in its purest form, should be cooked using only water, oats, sugar, and butter.  When it comes to preparing a bowl of oatmeal; neither raisins, cinnamon, bananas nor any other ingredient can add to the perfectly balanced flavor which can be achieved by keeping it simple.

When I prepare oatmeal, frankly when I cook just about anything, I tend to improvise when it comes to the measurement of ingredients.  I can assure you that following the directions found on any oatmeal box for the preparation of a single serving will not come anywhere close to producing enough oatmeal to satisfy me.

When I measure out the oats, I generally begin with the amount prescribed in the recipe for two servings and then generously add a bit more for good measure.

After cooking the oats , I stir in the sugar and butter in what I can only define as “satisfying amounts”.  I know what they are and can assure you that they are indeed satisfying!

At that point, all that’s left is to decant the oatmeal from the pot to the bowl, grab a spoon, and enjoy one of life’s simple, and in this case, healthy pleasures!

I had a big bowl this morning and I’m confident that I could feel my cholesterol levels dropping with every bite.

Happy Autumn!