Tomato, Red Onion and Basil Sandwich

This is how I like my tomato sandwich. Fresh and tasty.
This is how I like my tomato sandwich. Fresh and tasty.

I think I might be a tomato snob. I mean, I’m not one of those people who goes to a farmers market and knows the name of every heirloom variety in existence (overheard at the Cold Spring market “They only have Brandywine and Green Zebras left, God I hate this place“).

During most of the year, I’ll pick them out of sandwiches and salads and usually try to sneak them onto Matt’s plate even though he doesn’t love them either (I feel better knowing they’ve gone to a good home). I just really don’t like the taste and texture of out of season tomatoes and would rather wait until the good ones come out. Well, they’re out, and I can finally have the tomato sandwich I’ve been dreaming of all year.

Quick aside; in my real job as a film editor, I recently worked on a movie about farm labor and learned that all commercial tomatoes (the grocery store kind) are picked green because they need to be rock hard to survive the long trip to the store. When they get near the store, they gas them (!) which turns the skins red, but the insides stay un-ripe. That’s why even pretty looking supermarket tomatoes usually taste like wet sneaker. Yum!

Anyway, I dedicate this recipe to my old roommate Paola who introduced me to the glory of the perfect tomato sandwich. When in season, we ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hers was simply good bread, ripe tomato and sliced onion but I’m a bougie bastard and can’t resist gilding the lily with mayo, basil, maldon salt and occasionally avocado. Your tomato sandwich may well be different, but wouldn’t life be boring if everyone was the same?

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Tomato, Red Onion and Basil Sandwich

Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Servings: 2


  • Good pullman bread sliced thick (1/2 - 3/4") (we get ours from All You Knead in Beacon)
  • Ripe tomatoes any kind but preferably from a farmers market, sliced
  • Ripe avocado sliced (optional)
  • Red onion sliced very thin
  • Basil leaves 2 per open-faced sandwich
  • Mayo or drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil Frankies 457 is divine if you can find it
  • Maldon or sea salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper


  • It's an open-faced sandwich so assemble it any way you want but I like a thin swipe of mayo (which keeps the liquid from the tomatoes from turning the bread to mush).
  • Then basil leaves, tomato, avocado, and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and a drizzle of olive oil, if using).
  • I recommend not sharing.
Tried this recipe?Mention @NerdsWithKnives or tag #nerdswithknives!

Bonus recipe!

We made this tomato salad the other day but ate it so fast, I didn’t get a picture.  It’s a shame because it was insanely pretty with red, orange, purple and green tomatoes. It also works well as a raw sauce on grilled chicken or fish.
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Tomato Basil Salad (or Sauce)

Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes


  • About a pound of mixed heirloom tomatoes a variety of colors and sizes is great, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves roughly chopped or torn
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Put the vinegar in a large glass salad bowl and add the minced shallots. Allow it to sit for 10 minutes while you chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes and any accumulated juice, basil, oil, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  • If using as a salad, serve immediately. If using as a sauce, allow it to sit for 15 minutes. The salt will pull a lot of liquid out of the tomatoes, making a delicious, pourable concoction. Matt and I were literally elbowing each other to drink it.
Tried this recipe?Mention @NerdsWithKnives or tag #nerdswithknives!

Nerd tips:

  • Since this won’t be cooked, use the best olive oil you can get your mitts on.
  • Cut basil with a really sharp knife so it doesn’t turn black. Tearing it also helps prevent black leaves.
  • Allowing the shallots to sit in vinegar for 10 minutes takes the raw bite out and prevents “onion burp”.

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