I like to cook. And I learned in France not to let good health interfere with good taste, so while I improvise a lot, I rarely make substitutions just for reducing fat, salt, sugar, or flavor content unless I’m (a) cooking just for myself and (b) fairly certain it’s going to be okay.

But some of my favorite foods are the really simple ones, mostly passed on by oral tradition from my friends. I’ve decided to share. So now and again I’ll be posting a recipe that’s too simple for a cookbook, probably one that uses measurements like “some”, “enough”, and “until it’s cooked”.

In other words, just like my grandmother’s.

Today’s recipe is the
Stealth Sandwich

When I lived in Ottawa I had a sweet downstairs neighbor named Chris who loved to cook (I had other sweet downstairs neighbors but they didn’t cook much). He was the magic that made flaxseed-laced scones turn up on my doorstep as I was rushing out to work on a particularly harried morning. He had “bad day” radar and always knew when a little something would cheer me up. It was amazing. He has since moved twice and I have lost track of him, but I will be forever grateful for his grace, company, and support.

One day I was standing in his kitchen when he made the strangest food: an avocado sandwich. It began simply enough: take an avocado, perfectly or slightly overripe, slice into a bowl, mash with a fork. Add salt and pepper. Smear on wheat toast. Eat.

That version is the simple form, and works perfectly well.

However. One day I was in The Glebe, a chic neighborhood with a quaint old-European feel. There was a tiny cafe there, and I was hungry and hours from dinner. I ducked in and asked for the only vegetarian food on the menu, a tomato sandwich, just tomato and cheese on a roll. But then they asked me: would I like lettuce? (yes) Cucumber? (No). Avocado? And what kind of cheese?

It was the best cheap food in the whole city. Priced like a tomato and a slice of cheese on a roll, it became a feast. Here’s my version, although I cannot reproduce the delectable rolls that were the crowning touch.

Needed for each person:
a smallish tomato,
an avocado,
a slice of provolone cheese,
some bread more sturdy and flavorful than Wonderbread, two slices.

toast the bread
slice the tomato
mash the avocado in a bowl with a fork
salt and pepper the avocado to taste.
put mayo on the bread
spread a thick layer of avocado on one piece of toast (experience will teach you how thick it can be before it squeezes out the sides like jelly–alternatively, make it open-faced and don’t worry about the squeeze-out)
put the tomatoes and cheese on your masterpiece.
add the second slice of toast to make a sandwich.


oh, and a word about tomatoes: especially for this recipe, they need to be good, but they need not be summer-good. A good winter tomato does exist. The ones I used yesterday for this recipe were grown in Maine (presumably in a greenhouse), and it’s March. A good winter tomato should be firm and slightly sour, not as juicy or as soft as a summer tomato, but absolutely not mealy, mushy, or cardboard-flavored. Make thinner slices than you would for summer tomatoes. And if good tomatoes are not possible, better to leave them out than to settle. The beauty of this sandwich lies in the contrast of textures.