Summer & sammiches

Jul. 01, 2014 @ 09:49 AM

Yeah, I could act like a grownup and stoically deal with the summer heat and humidity. But whining and moaning like a big sweaty baby is how I live my truth.
I used to threaten every year to move to Maine. As the northernmost state on the East Coast, it’s got to be cooler, right? But that was before I found out they have mosquitos as big as helicopters. 
So I stay inside a lot during the inferno known as North Carolina summer.
But even as a shut-in with AC, sometimes it’s just too gross to cook a heavy meal with the stove and a lot of burners going.
This is where the sammiches come in. Even if there are cooked elements, it’s just a little. So the kitchen doesn’t heat up too much.
Tomato sammich: Take 2 substantial slices of sourdough or another hearty rustic bread (I picked up an awesome loaf from Loaf bakery at the farmers’ market), and slather each piece with very generous amounts of your favorite mayo.  Lightly salt and pepper both, and cover with 3 or 4 slices of fresh (either homegrown or farmer’s market) tomato. Because this is so simple, don’t skimp on the ingredients.  Buy and use the best you can find.
Perfect Grilled Cheese: Heat a cast iron pan, and then melt 1 tablespoon of butter in it. Using the same type of rustic bread as for the tomato sammich, lay the first slice in the pan. Lay on 2 or 3 slices of cheese of your choice (I love cheddar, Petey is into plastic-wrapped slices of Velveeta). Cover with second slice of bread, turn burner down to medium-low, and cover. After 3 or 4 minutes, uncover.  If cheese is getting melty, and the bread is golden, take it out, melt another tablespoon of butter in pan, flip, and cook for a couple more minutes or until the other side is golden and gorgeous. This method also makes the best PBJ you’ll ever eat.
Mom’s Bologna Sammich:  This is best on a very fresh Kaiser roll. Put mayo on bun bottom, and then salt and pepper it. Layer on thinly sliced deli all-beef bologna, white American cheese, green leaf lettuce, and sliced fresh tomato. Close, slice in half and enjoy with all your Jersey relatives.
Lazy R Tuna: Toast a sandwich or hamburger bun.  Into albacore tuna, add 1-2 tablespoons untoasted sesame seeds, and mayo to taste. Pile on bun. Eat. This is also very tasty made into lettuce wraps with Boston bib lettuce or scooped up and eaten with Fritos Scoops.
Deli Heresy Corned Beef: Put mayo on any type of bun or good bread, pile on sliced corned beef, and thinly sliced red onion. 
Writing about some of my favorite sammiches, I’ve realized something. I’m pretty hooked on mayonnaise. There may need to be an intervention at some point.
In honor of the Fourth of July, I also have a couple of unique burger toppings so you can declare your independence from boring cookouts.
Cowpoke burger: Spread one side of a toasted bun with your favorite barbecue sauce, the other with mayo. Melt sharp cheddar cheese on your burger, and place it on the bun. Then add raw baby spinach and thickly sliced tomato. On top of this, add a handful of onion straws. 
Onion Straws: Thinly slice (1/16 of an inch) white onions.  Soak in generously seasoned buttermilk for an hour or so. Heat a pot of oil to 350. Drain and pat dry onions.  Place onions in a bag of flour, and shake off excess.  In small batches, fry until golden.
Red, White, and Bleu burger: Sprinkle blue cheese crumbles on patty, add tomato, and sliced onion.  Spread a touch of Dijon mustard on top bun (I bet you thought I was going to say mayo).
Try to stay cool, and enjoy the fourth.
And if you think I was exaggerating about the heat making me cranky, Petey, who has had to live with me for 31 summers now, said I do act just like a big sweaty baby when I get too hot.
Sorry, Petey (and anyone else I encounter from May through September).
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is