Tomato sandwiches have owned me this summer.

It started with my mother-in-law’s visit, just before our big Independence Day family reunion. The reunion stretches across two meals, so everyone brings enough food for lunch and dinner. There are two big picnic tables covered in aluminum containers piled high with barbecue, ribs, chicken wings, burgers, hot dogs and brats. But no matter what else people had on their plates this year, no one could resist grabbing one (or two or three) of Elaine’s tomato sandwiches. Crustless rounds of white bread slathered with Duke’s mayonnaise and filled with ruby red slices of summer-ripe tomatoes sprinkled with Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt.

Pretty much perfect.

But that didn’t stop me from tinkering with them.

First, I traded the white bread for whole grain. Then, I mixed together a chive yogurt spread to add some protein. And I just kept gilding the lily, slowly adding pepper jack for a little kick, avocado for more bulk and sprouts, to make the texture more interesting.

And then, it was pretty obvious that my classic Southern party sandwich had gone Californian.

Feel free to put your own mark on this sandwich. Add leftover black beans to the avocado salad, and roll everything up in a tortilla. Spoon it into a few Bibb lettuce leaves to make lettuce wraps. Fold it into some warm garlic naan. Trade the chive yogurt for mayo, Vegenaise or veggie cream cheese. Serve the sandwich open-faced, or pile everything into a bagel. On your non-meatless days, add a few slices of turkey or crumbled bacon.

With a little imagination, you can pimp that tomato sandwich to satisfy just about any craving.

Perfect for the last few weeks of summer.

California Sandwich To Go

Rebecca Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)

Makes 2 large sandwiches or 4 small wraps

    Chive Spread:

  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise (OR 2 tablespoons of each)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
    Avocado Salad:

  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 tomato, cored and chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced (optional)
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  •  2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices bread (preferably whole grain) or 4 small tortillas (flour or multigrain)
  • 1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts
  • 2 to 4 slices pepper jack cheese
  1. To Make the Chive Spread: In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. To Make the Avocado Salad: In a medium bowl, gently toss together the avocado, tomato, cucumber, lime juice and basil or cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  3. To Assemble: Spread the chive-yogurt mixture on all four bread slices. Divide the sprouts between two slices of bread, and top with avocado salad and cheese. Cover with the remaining slices of bread. (If using tortillas, spread the chive-yogurt mixture on the tortillas, and top with cheese, avocado salad and sprouts. Roll, and eat.)