There’s something to be said of the fervor that farmers’ markets exude. Any day spent at a farmer’s market is festive and uplifting, as one treads merrily along, sampling a little bit of this and a little bit of that. How can one pass by the big piles of plump and juicy red tomatoes and not pick up a bagful? They usually don’t reach their flavorful peak until summer, but even their slight tartness at other times is perfect for a tangy chutney. And what better place to put that chutney to work than in a sandwich, maybe with something buttery and creamy to complement the spice. The Californian Sun allows for farmers’ markets’ revelry all year long, and as the Californian culinarian reaches home after a morning walk through one of them, acquiring her red finds for the day, she puts four of them in a pan of water to boil, until their skins come apart loosely. Once they’re cool enough to handle, she de-skins them gently and carefully, squeezing and mashing them to a pulpy mass, with pink juice squirting everywhere, dotting her apron with amorphous motifs, with traces of a job well done. And that’s when they’re ready for the Tadka!
Into a hot skillet, she drops a glob of pure ghee, and throws in a sprinkling of mustard and cumin seeds, allowing them to pop. She then adds a minced green chilli and some freshly grated ginger, stirring through while the aroma swarms the air around her. A pinch of turmeric for robustness and color and some red chilli powder for that extra zip go in before the pulpy tomatoes, and her ladle stirs red swirls in it until it reaches a jammy consistency. Followed by a few twists of the pepper mill, a bit of salt, a dash of sugar, it’s ready to go.
She now pulls out her favorite loaf of plain white bread, dreaming of an afternoon tea party, or even a boisterous family picnic. No self-respecting sandwich, whether or not it’s Victorian in its hackneyed cuke-and-cream grandeur, served at an English high tea, makes an appearance with its crusts, so she trims them and slices the whites along the diagonal. And the sandwich story begins to unfold. She slathers some chutney on one side and soft, peppy cream cheese on the other, wrapping each slice with her caring gaze. She spreads more cream cheese along the cut sides with caution, and then dips it into a plate of coarsely chopped salted peanuts, infusing them with a mirth that stems from her upbeat mood for the day. The other edges of these scrumptious sandwishes get a dipping into some chopped green cilantro, and they are lined up on a platter, luring her family to the table like magnets. This simple yet fancy tomato chutney sandwish is to the average foodie what nectar is to the bees.
Our ‘sandwish’ is being shared over at