Let Me Explain What’s Wrong with This Viral Tomato Toast
It might seem as though Andy Baraghani’s tomato toast recipe has completely taken over Instagram this summer, especially with Bon Appétit declaring it in their own hagiographic call-out post: “The Recipe of Summer 2018.” The recipe features thick slabs of ripe, juicy tomatoes shingled on sturdy slices of toasted country-style bread that has been swiped with a lemony-mayo. The whole stack is sprinkled generously with lemon zest, toasted sesame seeds, finely minced chives, flaky salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.
The resulting toast is nothing short of gorgeous — both swoon-worthy and Insta-worthy — and peak summer.
This weekend I taste tested Baraghani’s against my tried-and-true tomato toast recipe to determine: Is Bon App’s tomato toast truly the recipe of summer 2018 or just really brilliant viral marketing?
A Very Fancy Tomato Toast
Tomato toast isn’t anything new. Both French and Spanish cuisines have some version of a tartine that includes toasted bread and fresh tomatoes. My granddad grew up eating tomato and mayo sandwiches on white bread, and translated that recipe for his mayo-hating granddaughter to buttered toast with tomatoes. In fact, Kitchn contributor Tami Weiser shared a recipe for a one-minute tomato sandwich just last summer.
Securing quality bread and a meaty, ripe tomato is the easy part of making very good tomato toast — and the easiest part of making Baraghani’s recipe. However, you’ll still need no fewer than nine ingredients to make it, including the bread and tomato: mayo, a whole lemon (both the zest and juice, obviously), sesame seeds, two kinds of pepper, fresh chives, flaky salt, and good olive oil.
You might have at least half of these if you have a well-stocked pantry. But I never did find the gorgeous Aleppo pepper Baraghani suggested — even after dragging my kids to multiple grocery stores (but to be fair, I live in Boise, Idaho, and not in the boroughs of NYC).
How to Make the Very Fancy Tomato Toast
Once you get home with your required eight or nine ingredients, there’s actually a sizable amount of work to do before you even get to toasting the bread. You’ll need to toast the sesame seeds for starters, then zest the lemon first so that you can also juice it, and mix up a punched-up mayo that will go between the tomatoes and the toasted bread.
Snip the chives and slice the bread (and pray that your petite country loaf can actually give you four even slices that are relatively the same thickness). Then and only then can you toast your bread and begin layering the ingredients.
You’ll have used about seven different tools — including a small pan for toasting the seeds and a Microplane for zesting the lemon, but not including any small bowls you might need for the lemon zest and toasted seeds. (In the tool-induced chaos of your countertop, it is likely you’ll have forgotten to slice the tomatoes, but you can do that while the toast is toasting.)
Assembly, after all that prep work, is quick and pretty painless. Baraghini is well-known for his penchant for savory sprinkles, and visually the layers of sesame seeds, fresh chives, pepper, and flaky salt are not a disappointment.
The toast delivers on flavor too, but the chives and lemon overpower the tomato, sadly masking their summery umami goodness.
Let’s Compare to a Less Fancy Tomato Toast!
Directly after taste testing, I make my own version of tomato toast. I slice another loaf of the same country bread and toast it. I swipe on Duke’s mayo with the same serrated knife I sliced both the bread and the tomatoes with before I add the tomato slices.
A sprinkle of flaky salt and black pepper finish off the tomatoes. Every single bite of the toast is pure juicy tomato flavor.
Is BA’s Version the Recipe of Summer 2018?
I would not make Bon Appétit’s tomato toast again. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a recipe that requires nine ingredients and six utensils and masks the peak summer tomato flavor cannot be boldly labeled as the “Recipe of Summer.”
Summer recipes should require few ingredients and little cooking so you can enjoy the warm lulling evenings with company and wine.
While this toast is gorgeous, it’s a good reminder that what works for viral recipe marketing and Instagram-worthy photo sharing doesn’t always serve the cook or the eater.
Get the fanciest toast recipe of summer 2018: Tomato Toast with Chives and Sesame Seeds at Bon Appetit