Introduction: Triple XXX Tomato Sandwich
Warning: XXX sandwich prologue.
I created the Triple XXX Tomato Sandwich years ago when I was the Kitchen Manager/chef for Ecco Il Pane in Vancouver; Ecco was a little Italian Bakery/Bistro that served an eclectic clientele due to its proximity to TV stations and Recording studios. This sandwich was a repeat order for Sarah McLaughlin and David Duchovny. It was valentines day and in true cheesy function, the specials and soups were made and named to honor the day. 9 1/2 bean soup was swapped for the movie 9 1/2 weeks. Heart break soup was made with beef heart dumplings - better then it sounds... and my sandwich special was the Triple XXX tomato sandwich. The name was kinda of an inside joke as one of our more odder prep boys said if you wanted true love, just go to the Fox. The Fox was a sketchy adult movie theater on Main street I used to walk by going to work everyday. That Valentines day morning the triple XXX signage and the iconic black cougar stood out. Since I had an idea of the sandwich using tomato in 3 different ways I thought the XXX was symbolic. Others thought I was just trying to make it sound Valentines day "Sexy". But I digress, your here for a sandwich...
Ecco was a high end bakery, so we served the most incredible tomato bread, the base of the sandwich. Daily I would roast a flat of roma tomatoes until lightly charred. These would be combined with fresh roasted garlic, toasted cumin, sun dried tomatoes and flat leaf parsley. Its hard to describe, the bread is so intensely tomato. The scent alone reminds me of going into a green house filled with hundreds of tomato plants, it is heady it almost makes you dizzy. Next was a layer of fresh tomato tapenade, once again roasted tomatoes are ground with sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted garlic and chill flakes. As a sauce it takes on a different flavor with a tangy sweet finish. Finally, Roma tomatoes are cut into slices and pressed hard into a spiced corn meal mixture. The corn meal would embed deeply into the hollow juicy sections of the tomatoes. Drizzled with olive oil and either fried or baked in a convection oven they would come out crispy on the outside and butter soft on the inside. In a sandwich they come off as meaty. Put it all together with a bit of fresh spinach and Fruiliano cheese, slap it in a panini press and magic happens.
This recipe with its many steps may seem overwhelming, but really, it doesn't take a lot of active time, just a bit of waiting. The 3 main components of the sandwich are like mini recipes by themselves but the trick is in the order you make them. For the bread and tapenade, you need to make your roasted tomatoes and garlic on day one. These are combined into the dough. For those making bread dough for the first time, this is a magical cheating way, as there is no laborious kneading. All the ingredients are stirred together for maybe a minute to make a sticky shaggy dough that looks a big gooey mess. The trick here is to allow it to sit for 24 hours. Over this long sit, gluten strands form with out having to do any kneading. The beauty of this is your tomato and garlic don't get disintegrated by kneading it forever. The tapenade is silly easy as your just tossing left over bread flavorings into a food processor, 5 minutes - tops. The cornmeal tomatoes are just as easy. Cornmeal and seasonings are zoomed in a food processor and tomatoes are pressed into the mix and then baked or fried with a little olive oil love. Then assemble the sandwich and load into a panini press or fry up like a grilled cheese.
For shits and giggles, I tried doing it in a waffle maker as I am currently panini press challenged, the grilled cheese format was better...
On a side note, the left over tomato bread makes a stupid awesome grilled cheese, check it out....
Step 1: Ingredients
- 3 cups white unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup minced flat leaf parsley
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp whole cumin
Flavorings and fillings
- 8 Roma tomato's
- 3/4 cup sun-dried tomato - Dried, not oil packed
- 2 heads of garlic, tops cut off (reserve the little tips of garlic from the tops)
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 cup corn meal plus extra
- 1 cup of fresh baby spinach, kale or chard
- 1 teaspoon dried chill flakes
- sliced cheese, Fruiliano is best, mozzarella or provolone as a substitute
- olive oil, butter, salt and pepper
Step 2: Tomato - Stage 1
One of the keys to this dish is using two different style of tomato flavor, with the first being roasted tomato.
- Quarter 5 of the tomatoes and add in a bowl with a teaspoon of salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- The cut ends of garlic reserved from prepping the garlic (next step) should be added here with the whole mixture tossed to coat.
- Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, skin side down and slide into a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes.
- Flip and cook for another 10 minutes to drive some of the moisture.
- Allow to cool and scrape into a bowl with accumulated juices
The second half is the sun dried tomatoes.
- Mince the tomatoes and place in a cup of hot water along with the red vinegar. Allow to soften and plump for about 30 minutes.
- Drain and reserve the liquid.
Step 3: A Little More Flavour
Roasted garlic adds subtle garlic flavor and sweetness to counter the tart tomato. They are used in the dough and the tapenade.
- If you haven't already, slice off the top of both heads of garlic.
- Line a small baking dish with aluminum foil and a layer of parchment.
- Place the garlic in the center of the package and drizzle with olive oil.
- Pull the foil up around the garlic and loosely pinch.
- Place along side your roasting tomato's and bake for 45 minutes.
Step 4: Dough
Normally a dough like this is hard to work with out destroying the textures provided by the garlic and tomato's. The cheat here is to adopt the no-knead approach to bread making. Rather then kneading the dough until smooth and elastic, allow time to do the work for you.
- In a large bowl mix your flour, salt, and yeast
- Loosely chop half of the roasted tomatoes and add to the flour mixture
- Squeeze the roasted garlic out of one head and add your mixture along with 1/2 cup of the sun dried tomatoes and minced parsley.
- Toast your cumin seeds in a dry pan for a minute until fragrant and add to the mixture. Toss the mixture until the moist ingredients are evenly distributed.
- For this type of dough you are looking for a 2:1 flour to water ratio. To the reserved sun dried tomato liquid add enough cool water to 1.5 cups
- Add to the flour mixture and stir to combine. It will be sticky and unlike any dough you've worked with before with the tomato pieces falling out of the dough. Its ok, let time do its magic.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit somewhere cool for 24 hours.
Step 5: Bake Some Bread
Ok, it's the next day...
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and put a dutch oven or deep frying pan with a lid in it to get nice and hot.
Gather your now doubled in volume dough onto a piece of parchment lightly dusted with cornmeal. Try not to deflate the dough much by gently loosening it enough so you can tip it out onto the parchment.
Quickly and carefully remove the very hot pan and gently drop the parchment paper lined dough into the hot pan, put the lid on and pop it back into the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake for another 10 minutes to deepen the color.
Allow to cool completely before cutting, so hard to wait....
Step 6: Tomato - Stage 2 - Tapenade
The tapenade is so simple.
In a food processor blend the remaining roasted tomato, sun-dried tomato's, dried chilli, a handful of fresh basil and the last head of roasted garlic. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 7: Tomato - Stage 3 - Fry or Bake
Fried tomato's are typically made to use up green tomatoes, but firm red ripe roma's are even better.
- In a food processor add your cornmeal, a teaspoon each of salt and pepper and half a cup of spinach. process until you have a green/yellow cornmeal.
- Slice your remaining roma tomato's about 1/3rd of an inch. You should get about 5 slices per tomato.
- Place your cornmeal mix into a pan and bury a tomato slice into the mix. Press the tomato until the cornmeal is firmly embedded. Repeat for the remaining tomato's
At this point you can bake or fry them.
To fry, melt 1/8 cup of butter into a pan with the a little olive oil and fry the tomatoes over medium heat for about 4 minutes per side.
To bake, line a baking sheet with parchment drizzled with olive oil. Place the tomatoes in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil and bake at 450 for about 5 minutes. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes.
Step 8: Assemble
Perhaps the easiest step.
Spread slices of tomato bread with the tapenade mixture and layer the cheese, some baby spinach and the cornmeal tomatoes.
Step 9: Cook
Originally this was made in a panini press; sadly I seem to be lacking in 400$ restaurant grade panini presses so I tried a waffle maker. It almost worked but crispiness was lacking.
The second method was much better where I treated it like a giant grilled cheese. Simply butter and fry over medium heat until golden and crispy on each side. This would also be great grilled on a barbecue over indirect heat.
If you do have a panini press or something similar i highly recommend it. It might be a little 90's, but those grill marks make this sandwich shine.
Step 10: Ta-da
Second Prize in the
Sandwich Challenge 2020