On the Table

Tomatoes: Savor the sandwich of summer

July 3, 2012 

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7/14/2009 It's an excellent example of the maxim that the simplest ingredients yield the highest reward: Bread. Mayonnaise. Tomato. Salt. Pepper. It's one food that is truly seasonal. You may be able to buy a tomato in January, but you can only achieve tomato sandwich greatness in the months of tomato perfection. Earlier than July or later than September and you should forget it ‚øø eat grilled cheese. TODD SUMLIN - tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

2009 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO - TODD SUMLIN — tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

It’s time to take advantage of tomato season. From now through early fall, you’ve got easy access to the main ingredient of an all-time great meal: The tomato sandwich.

There’s no reason not to eat one every day.

Tomato sandwiches pack numerous benefits. They tend to be low in calories, since the primary filling – tomato – is mostly water. They’re low in sodium, too.

Tomatoes are also rich sources of vitamins A and C as well as potassium.

Another advantage: It’s easy to find fresh, organic, locally grown tomatoes. Like me, you even may be lucky enough to be able to pick your own in the backyard.

I also like tomato sandwiches because they’re so easy to fix. When it’s topping 100 degrees outside, most of us don’t feel like firing up the oven to make a meal.

It’s enough to pop some bread down in the toaster. Pair a toasted tomato sandwich with a salad side for a meal that’s quick and cool.

A BLT is the classic, but you can update it. Here are some ways to do that:

• Replace greasy, artery-clogging bacon with something better. Natural foods stores carry a variety of soy-based bacon substitutes that taste really good.

Lightlife Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips or Smart Bacon are two examples.

Many conventional supermarkets also carry MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips. Any of these meatless alternatives is better for you than meat-based bacon.

• Vary the wrapper. Instead of white bread, use coarse, wholegrain varieties or serve your sandwich on a whole grain bun.

I like making my sandwiches on garlic naan, an Indian flatbread, or on Zataar pita, an herb-topped Middle Eastern flatbread from Chapel Hill’s own Mediterranean Deli.

• Add flavor with fillings. There’s nothing wrong with a smear of mayo. But I also like to add other condiments such as honey mustard, yellow mustard, mango chutney, basil pesto or a little hot sauce.

You can also add one slice of low fat cheese or a layer of chickpea hummus.

This summer, keep it simple, cool and nutritious. Make tomatoes your diet’s best friends.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net and follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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