Stuffed Poblano Peppers

As you know, I’m from Southern California.

And the best thing about growing up in Southern California isn’t the beaches, the weather, or even In-n-Out.

It’s Disneyland Grad Night.

That’s right, an entire night where  the theme park is open just for the seniors in a few CAlifornia high schools. It’s all churros, Space Mountain, and shoppin on Main Street until the sun comes up. So, of course, you need to have a good foundation of food for the night ahead.

That night, my mom made me chile rellenos. I’m going to have to make those for the blog – deep fried smoky poblano peppers, stuffed with oozy mozzarella and cheddar cheeses encased in puffy batter. They are labor intensive, but so insanely delicious and great fuel for a night of running around.

But, for those times when you want a little less deep fried and a little more protein, you can go for these slightly easier versions, that you may like even better.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

stuffed peppers

Ingredients:

4 poblano peppers

1-1.5 cups cooked long grain rice or orzo

1 lb. ground meat

1 small can Mexican style diced tomatoes

Assorted taco seasonings (oregano, cayenne, coriander, cumin, etc)

1 clove diced garlic

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping

hot sauce, salsa, guacamole, sour cream for serving

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1. Put the peppers on a pan and put them under the broiler for about 7 minutes per side, or until they are TOTALLY charred on the outside. We are talking black, burned, and they might pop in the oven. That’s okay. You need to get them completely charred. Dont forget to turn them so all sides get blackened.

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2. When they are charred all over, put them on a plate in a single layer and cover tightly with cling wrap. Leave until the peppers are cool enough to handle. Now, the skins should just slip right off.

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3. While the peppers cool, prepare the filling. Sautee the beef, garlic, and spices until the beef is cooked.

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4. Add the tomatoes….

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5. The rice, and the cheese. Taste for seasonings – the rice absorbs a lot of flavor, so you may need more salt or hot sauce than usual.

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6. Now split the peppers lengthwise and stuff them with the stuffing. I mean overstuff them. Pregnant with twins stuff them. It’s okay if they tear a little and are overflowing – that’s what you want. And yes, I top mine with extra cheese.

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7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is totally melted.

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8. Serve.

These are the perfect weeknight meal. Healthy, inexpensive, and tasty. The peppers are smoky and mild. However, when cooked with the rice and cheese, they really assert their flavor. It’s a great way to use up leftover rice – and if you have any canned black beans or corn, throw those in there, too! Fresh scallions – even better! It’s a great way to use up leftover rice and other stuff that’s about to go bad, in a way that is so tasty that no one will guess that it’s a leftovers meal.

And I can’t help but think of Disneyland every time that I eat them.

Creamy Moroccan Carrot Soup

I have been on a carrot streak lately.

Roasting them with hot chile paste. Shredding them into coleslaw mix. Dipping them into blue cheese dressing, au naturel.

And making them into this decidedly un-summery soup. It’s vegetarian and extremely easy to make – in an hour or so, you have a homemade, creamy, comforting soup with zam-pow punch that will knock you off your feet.

Creamy Moroccan Carrot Soup

2011-12-18 tsimis brisket liver hummus latkes Ingredients:

1 lb. peeled and roughly chopped carrots (yes, I used the baby ones…it’s easy, so kill me.)

1 tbsp. veggie oil

1 onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 bunch celery, chopped

2 tsp. grated ginger, fresh or frozen but not dried

2 tsp-1 tbsp. harissa paste (no tomato in the mix)

2 good glugs of ketchup

2 tbsp. ras el hanout

6 cups chicken stock

cream, salt, and pepper to taste

cilantro to garnish

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1. Get those onions, garlic, and celery, in the olive oil over medium heat. Saute for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are softened and start to turn translucent.

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2. Add the carrots, the chicken stock, harissa paste, ras el hanout, and ketchup. Yes, ketchup. Trust me, it’s the secret star ingredient. Stir and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the carrots are soft. Check once, halfway through, to make sure that he veggies aren’t burning to the bottom of the pan.

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3. Using an immersion blender, bend the carrots when they are mushy and falling apart. Add some cream and taste for seasonings. I always add a lot of pepper and just a touch of salt.

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4. Garnish with cilantro and serve

This soup will cure what ails you. It takes ginger carrot soup to the next level. Ras el Hanout is a North African spice mixture that includes ginger, cumin, corinader, and many other spices. It’s floral, earthy, and fragrant. It is flavorful but not at all spicy – that’s where the harissa comes in. Just use a little because it’s quite potent! And the ketchup….oh, that’s the ticket. It provides a totally unidentifiable sweet, bright backnote. It’s sweet, bright, and brings  a whole new flavor dimension to the creamy soup. Don’t skimp on the cilantro at the end – I thought it was optional, but then I added it and was like – oh. Yeah. This is very important. Mhm.

And this soup altogether is very important for making my carrot obsession seem totally legit. Mhm.

The World’s Best Cheesecake

*I had another post lined up for today when I discovered that this blog post was devoid of pictures. Somehow, in the great blog transfer, this post’s pictures disappeared into thin air! Plus there was a dead link right in the first sentence! Sacre bleu! So, this is reposted because it is one of my favorite recipes ever…thanks  to my sous chef mom, and thanks to my favorite food group DAIRY!*
 Remember the best cheesecake on earth? What a crock! This…THIS is actually the best cheesecake. I decreased the size of the cake, added a touch of sour cream to the batter, and put gingersnaps in the crust. Quite frankly, this is the best cheesecake on the face of the planet. It is rich, creamy, sweet, perfect fresh or frozen…but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go through the recipe first, shall we? The World’s Best Cheesecake Ingredients: 4 packages cream cheese 1/2 cup sour cream 1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups total sugar
2 eggs Juice of 1 lemon 1 Tbsp. vanilla 12 gingersnaps or graham crackers, crushed into crumbs 6 cups of crushed nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, or whatever you like) 1 stick butter, melted Special Equipment: Springform pan, lined with tinfoil.

 1. Preheat your oven to 350 F and combine 1 cup of sugar with the crushed nuts and cookies. Mix well.

2. Drizzle the butter over the crumbs and mix well until all the crumbs are moistened and become a thick sort of paste. You may not use all of the butter – you want it to be just a bit moist, not sopping wet.

 3. Pat the crumbs into an even layer in your tinfoiled springform pan. Set aside.

 4. In a large bowl, combine your cream cheese,

 sweetened condensed milk, 

 vanilla, lemon juice, 

the rest of the sugar, the eggs, and the sour cream.   images (1) 5. Mix with your hand mixer or stand mixer for at least 7 minutes or until the mixture has increased in volume by about 1/3 (yes, Christina Tosi, you have convinced me that a prolonged mixing time really makes an outstanding cake).

 6. Pour the cheesecake batter into the crust. Take a quick lick of the spatula. You won’t get salmonella. Probably.

 7. Place the cake on a sheet pan with a lip and put it in the oven. Pour water into the sheet pan to create a water bath. Cook the cheesecake for about 45 minutes, or until the outside is firm but the center is still somewhat jiggly. If the cheesecake starts to become golden around the edges, take it out at once. When the cake is done, cool it for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

 10) Serve. You are going to love this cake – I bet my blog’s credibility on it. It isn’t one of those fluffy, sugary, preservative laden cakes. This is dense – like a glorious brick in your stomach. The first taste is of cream and pure, clean dairy. Then there is the sweet and gingery crunch of the crust – like a buttery, nutty graham cracker. Then there is the gentle tang of the lemon and sour cream, the aromatic, floral vanilla and the sweetness of the sugar. Pushing your knife through this is like running your fingers through wet sand. It is slow, it is sensual, it gives you some resistance. And it’s so damn satisfying.

Without a doubt, the best cheesecake ever.

Orange Zest Gremolata

So you have some short ribs? A pot roast? Roast chicken, veal shank, or roast pork?

Those are all delicious, but they aren’t what I would call light. They are a little heavy, a little rich. They might need something to cut through the fat.

Something like this:

Red Wine and Tomato Braised Shor Ribs with Gremolata: Part Two

IMG_1059 Ingredients:

zest of 1/2 orange

1 clove garlic, pasted with salt

2 tbsp. finely minced flat leaf italian parsley

IMG_1062 1. Mix it then use it liberally.  I had heard of this but had never used it before and had to consult a couple of recipes to develop my own, so this absolutely counts as a recipe in my book – albeit a super fast one. I made it like pico de gallo, with equal proportions of all ingredients. It’s salty, fragrant, grassy, and a little spicy. It perks up any slow cooked meat instantly, and as the heat of the protein hits the gremolata, the sweet orange scent wafts up and the garlic instantly mellows and becomes savory. I can’t recommend this enough – in fact, I would even use it with poached salmon and tartar sauce or broccoli and béarnaise.
IMG_1067 So simple, but it makes a great meal a gourmet one.

Red Wine and Tomato Braised Short Ribs

Mkay, so what we have here is a VERY involved recipe. So involved, in fact, that it will be written in 2 parts.

It’s taken equal parts from Serious Eats, Pioneer Woman, and my mom’s brisket recipes.

It takes forever to make and it isn’t especially cheap, but wow does it deliver for a big dinner party.

Red Wine and TomatoBraised Short Ribs with Gremolata, Part 1:

short ribs cuke soup Ingredients:

6 lb.s bone in short ribs, salted and peppered

zest or peel of 1 orange

2 cups red wine

2-4 cups beef stock

2 onions, diced

1 bunch celery, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

3 bay leaves

a few sprigs each rosemary and thyme

1 cup flour, to dredge

1 small can tomato paste

3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/3 cup ketchup

1 glug balsamic vinegar

1/2 package bacon

IMG_0990 1. Put the bacon in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed, oven safe pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook it slowly over medium heat until the fat is totally rendered and the bacon is quite crispy. This should take about 15 minutes – when the bacon is finished, take it out of the pan with a slotted spoon, turn off the oven, and leave the grease in the pan. Put the oven to 325F.

IMG_0987 2. Toss the short ribs in the flour so they are all totally coated. Turn the greased pot back on high heat until it smokes.

IMG_0995 3. Put the short ribs in the pot, 2 or 3 at a time so they don’t touch each other, and sear on each side for about 2 minutes. This is just to sear in the juices, not to cook the meat. Then, remove them to a plate and turn the heat slightly down to medium high.

IMG_1018 4. Add the celery, onions, and garlic, and cook until they are translucent and softened, though not browned. This should take about 10 minutes.

IMG_1024 5. Add the wine, cooked bacon, tomato paste, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, orange peel, and herbs. Turn the pot on high and bring to a simmer.

IMG_1036 6. Add the beef and…

IMG_1040 the stock. Make sure that the bones are 100% or almost 100% covered.

IMG_1055 7. Cover and cook for about 3 hours, or until the beef slips off the bone easily and is incredibly tender.

IMG_1087 8. Pick out the bay leafs and the herb stems. They are usually pretty easily found, but if it’s driving you up a wall, don’t worry about it.

IMG_1092 9. Take out the meat and the bones – by this point, the meat may have fallen off of the bones. Or, if you want, you can slip the bones out – they should slide out quite easily.

IMG_1103 10. Using a stick blender, puree the broth completely. It will turn quite frothy. Then, skim the fat (mostly that upper frothy stuff, and taste for seasonings.

20140803_202314 11. Serve with polenta, garlicky spinach, and roasted carrots.

These are just delicious. Tender, hearty, and bursting with flavor. The faint backnote of orange is sweet; it melds with the tangy balsamic vinegar and jammy tomato paste. The sauce develops its salty flavor as it sits, especially overnight, so be judicious with that Worcestershire sauce. Speaking of which, this is GREAT as a make ahead dish – it’s even better as leftovers than it is the day that it is made. The gravy is thick and hearty – perfect with some creamy polenta. And that ketchup is the secret ingredient – it adds a sweet, tangy dimension that brings in some bbq flavor.
20140803_202321 The only thing it’s missing is some brightness. But…oh wait…what’s that on top?

Stay tuned.

Creamy Horseradish Mashed Kale and Cauliflower

Mashed cauliflower is the greatest thing since mashed potatoes.

It’s creamy, it can be as rich or as virtuous as you desire, it’s fast to make, and it’s GENIUS if you are cutting down on carbs.

But you know what I say…lose the carbs, keep the fat.

So here it is…one of my fave mashed cauliflower dishes ever, with a little something healthy mixed in.

Creamy Horseradish Mashed Kale and Cauliflower

2011-08-25 fritatta and cheatloaf Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets

1 bunch kale, torn into small pieces and cleaned

1.5 cups shredded horseradish cheese

1 bunch scallions, diced

1/3 cup cream cheese

3 tbsp. seasoning (throw some salt in there, too!)

IMG_0904 1. Toss the kale and cauliflower in a large stockpot filled with water. It’s okay if the veggies almost overflow from the pot – the kale cooks waaaayyy down. Cover the pot and cook for at least 40 minutes at a full rolling boil. I mean, you want that kale WILTED into submission. It should be almost as tender as spinach. You cannot overcook this – cook it longer than you think is necessary.
IMG_0918 2. When everything is totally limp (that’s what she said), turn off the heat, drain the veggies well, and return it to the pot.  IMG_0920 3. Add the cheese, seasoning, scallions, and cream cheese to the pot. The cheese should instantly start to melt.  IMG_0923 4. Puree with a hand blender (ie, the best thing on our registry…I LOVE this thing!). IMG_0925 5. Taste for seasonings and serve.

THIS is the way that you get someone to eat kale. This is the way that you get someone to forget that they can’t eat potatoes. This is the way to use up that cauliflower that is about to go bad. This is just awesome. The horseradish really gives a sharp, spicy hit  and the cream cheese makes the dish both buttery and creamy. The scallions make the whole thing taste like loaded mashed potatoes, and – guess what? – you don’t taste the kale. Such a great way to sneak in some roughage. It’s the ideal one-pot meal, especially with the stick blender – serve it right out of the pot, like I do.  IMG_0927 Then, scrape the remnants with your finger, like I do.

Bacon Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken

Okay, so this is something that I don’t even know if I can count as a recipe.

But…then…I certainly never had it growing up. And I didn’t know how it would turn out. And it turned out GREAT. So maybe you want to know how to make it, too!

It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner because it’s incredibly quick and easy to make. It’s adjustable – make it low fat with chicken breasts, kosher with turkey bacon, or gluten free with gluten free teriyaki sauce.

That’s right…I’m using bottled teriyaki sauce and calling this a recipe.

Because if you never grew up wrapping things in bacon, it’s a gosh darned near revelation.

Bacon Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken

2013-03-27 meatloaf Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 cup teriyaki sauce

1 onion, diced

4 strips thick cut bacon

1 dash of sambal olek or sriracha

IMG_0886 1. Lay the onions in the bottom of a baking dish and preheat the oven to 350F. Then, wrap each of the bacon pieces around the chicken, with the ends underneath the chicken on the bottom so they are secured. The chicken may be wrapped diagonally, horizontally, or any which way…it really doesn’t matter. You just want as much of the bacon on the top of the chicken as possible.

IMG_0889 2. Pour over the teriyaki sauce and drizzle on the sriracha or pepper paste. Then, pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, basting the chicken with the juices and teriyaki sauce every 10 minutes.

IMG_0915 3. When the chicken is almost done - within 5 minutes of being totally done – set the oven to broil for about 4 minutes, or until the chicken is finished, the bacon is very crisp, and the teriyaki sauce makes the whole kitchen smell savory and sweet.

IMG_0924 This is some really tasty chicken. It’s juicy and soft, with bacon that is so insanely crispy on top that it shatters between your teeth. The sugars in the sauce caramelize on the bacon, giving it a candied sensation and the sriracha adds a touch of heat. The onions pretty much melt into the sauce, which itself is perfect atop mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower and kale (don’t worry, that recipe is coming). The bacon on the bottom isn’t really crispy, but if you turned the chicken it would be.

Or if you are lazy and an inner fat kid like me, you just eat that floppy bacon on the bottom and you like it.

That’s what she said.

Bacon and Blue Turkey Burgers

I am trying to be healthier.

And let me tell you – it is hard.

But I have a really big birthday coming up and I hear that my metabolism is going to hit the rocks. And the chances of me exercising are probably slim to none, so I should start eating a  little healthier, at least when I cook at home.

For me, that means cutting down on the refined carbs. Blah.

But I can’t let go of the fat – I need that fat.

Well, I want it, anyway.

So this is something to make me forget that I am trying not to eat bread. It’s fatty, spicy, a little sweet, and smoky.

Obviously it has bacon.

Bacon and Blue Turkey Burgers

bacon mushroom burgers Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey or chicken

6 slices thick cut bacon, diced

1 package cleaned and chopped mushrooms, diced a little smaller

1 onion or 1 bunch scallions, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/4 cup spicy steak sauce

salt and pepper to taste

drizzle of olive oil

blue cheese dressing

wedge salad fixins

20140715_174750 1. Drizzle the pan with olive oil and then throw the chopped bacon in there over medium heat. You just want enough oil to get the bacon going. When the bacon starts to sputter and brown, add the mushrooms – expect some oil splatter.  20140715_180359 2. When the bacon and shrooms are super brown, in about 15 minutes, turn off the heat and take them out and drain on a paper towel. However, do not drain the pan.  20140715_191752 3. Combine the ground turkey, steak sauce, onions, garlic, and salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and bacon and mix well, then form into 4 patties. Make sure that the steak sauce that you choose is a little spicy and properly salty, because this is where most of the flavoring comes from.  20140715_191946 4. Turn the pan on medium high and cook those burgers right in the bacon fat. I sometimes take the easy way out and put a lid on the pan to steam cook the burgers – you lose the charred taste but it keeps the burgers moist, and since this is turkey, you don’t have to worry about keeping them rare.  20140715_200245 5. Serve over salad or in portabella buns with blue cheese dressing.  20140715_200256 I mean, this doesn’t taste like I’m missing out on carbs. It tastes like a sweet, spicy burger with crispy bits of bacon and juicy mushrooms. The raw onions or scallions add an unexpected brightness and if you steam the burgers like I do, they are especially soft and juicy. Best of all, the blue cheese is a creamy, cooling counterpart with just a bit of tangy blue cheese taste. The key here is adding the steak sauce to the burgers – it takes care of the seasoning for you. Just try to choose one low in sugar so you don’t sabotage your own healthy meal.

Especially since you are going to want seconds.

Remember These Baked Teriyaki Chicken Wings?

I got some chicken legs at the supermarket the other day and didn’t know what I wanted to do with them – so, I turned to the blog. I TOTALLY FORGOT about this recipe, and I bet you did, too! Well, it’s good enough to bear repeating! Besides, how many of you were actually paying attention in 2012? I mean, wasn’t Kim still married to that basketball player back then?

I love wings. Spicy, salty, juicy, saucy…I mean, it sounds more like an R rated film than a food, right? Wings are delicious when they are fried and crunchy, dipped in fire truck red sauce and served in a bar, but they are also great when made at home! Homemade baked wings are juicy, tender, and flavorful. They are the perfect party snack, inexpensive to make, and can be easily transported. Best of all, this recipe is a snap – my favorite “no recipes, just proportions” rule comes into play.

Baked Teriyaki Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

2 packages Chicken wings or drummettes(the drummettes are dark meat, so they are naturally juicier)

2/3 part your favorite teriyaki sauce (I am a fan of Soy Vey products)

1/3 part  hoisin sauce (it’s easy to find kosher or vegetarian versions)

1 dash of Sriracha

a palmful of brown sugar (or as much as you need…this is all done by taste, remember?)

1. Combine the sauces and sugar in a large roasting pan. Mix to combine, then taste. It should be salty and savory, with a distinctly sweet edge and just a touch of spice. Also preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Put the chicken wings in the pan, then toss them around in the sauce to make sure they are coated.

3. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the largest wing/drumette runs clear juices when it is pierced with a fork.  During that time, baste the chicken with the sauce every 10 minutes, so by the time the wings are done they look like…

this. Browned, caramalized with sugars and salt, crispy in parts and juicy underneath the skin.

4. When the chicken is entirely cooked, remove it from the pan and drain the juices and sauce into a saucepan. Boil it on the stove for 15 minutes, or until it has drastically reduced in volume and has become very sticky and thick.

5. Add the sauce to the wings, then serve immediately or let come to room temperature or refrigerate, or freeze…you get the picture.

What you probably don’t get is how delicious these wings are. If they were any saucier, juicer, or more tantalizing, they would have been the high school hussies.

So sweet and savory, so reminiscent of bad-for-you food while being baked instead of deep-fried. Sure there is skin on there, but it helps self baste the chicken, keeping it soft and juicy. This is a great dinner with a side of rice but is also ideal for a picnic. served room temperature, these actually taste better a few hours or a day after they are made. This couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

If I haven’t said it before…damn. I love wings.

Tomato Sandwich Redux – No Mayo!

When I read about this tomato sandwich on some food forum or other (what, you don’t spend your days trolling sites for restaurant reviews and recipes?), I knew that I had to try it. I have had at least 4,000 tomato sandwiches in my lifetime, but never one like this.

This isn’t your traditional tomato sandwich. 

Why, you ask?

Well, for one, there is no mayonnaise. Now, I LOVE tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches, but sometimes, they can be a little too much – too creamy, too goopy, too messy.

Also, there are seasonings beyond salt and pepper. A TRAVESTY in the tomato-sandwich making traditional school of thought.

Also…well, it’s not really tomato season yet. It’s early. The tomatoes are fresh and juicy at the farmer’s market, but they aren’t quite those sweet, dripping with flavor, sun warmed tomatoes that August is sure to bring.

But it was a long winter. And I need some tomato sandwiches NOW. 

So, without further ado…here is the simple way to make a nouveau tomato sandwich.

20140702_074652 1. Take your piece of bread. I had sour rye, but fresh white bread or even some thinly sliced pumpernickel would work well. 20140702_074803 2. Spread it thickly with unsalted butter. The butter must be spread thickly and it MUST be unsalted. I always buy unsalted butter because it’s so easy to season your own butter to the saltiness that you prefer, and then you control the sodium. Also, keep that butter at room temperature when you are spreading it so you don’t tear the bread.  20140702_075109 3. Layer on your tomatoes, none too thinly sliced. The heartier the bread is, the thicker the slices must be. Also, the tomatoes aren’t fully flavored yet, so you need thicker slices to taste them fully. Come August, you can use a razor blade to cut those slices and still have the taste burst through.  20140702_075134 5. Top with your seasonings of choice – I prefer a spicy lemon pepper seasoning with red pepper flakes, salt, and dried lemon zest. 
20140702_075143 6. Eat openfaced, in front of the air conditioner and with an ice old root beer, if possible. 

This sandwich blew me away. The butter seems less important than the mayo is – it really lets the tomato be the star of the show. It is more of a barrier than anything else – it keeps the tomato’s juices from making the bread soggy. The bread was a good choice – a slightly sour bread highlights the tomato’s natural sweetness. And the seasoning was really exciting – tart and spicy and salty enough to make every other flavor sing. I really felt like such a rebel – who puts extra seasoning on their tomato sandwiches?! Who AM I?!

I’m jut a girl who was ready for a freakin tomato sandwich.

And it. was. good.