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Adding These Ingredients Will Fix Any Boring Sandwich

Your sandwich would be nothing without these essential flavorings

An open-faced sandwich with tomatoes and lettuce on top, sprinkled with pepper and salt. Wonho Frank Lee/Eater

This post originally appeared in the April 18, 2022 edition of The Move, a place for Eater’s editors to reveal their recommendations and pro dining tips — sometimes thoughtful, sometimes weird, but always someone’s go-to move. Subscribe now.

In the elegant art of sandwich making, there are a few nonnegotiables: Match the kind of sandwich to the appropriate style of bread, generously slather said bread with the condiments of your choosing, and pick exactly the right ratio of toppings to bread size so that the whole thing doesn’t teeter and topple over. (Few things are worse than a sandwich for which you have to hyperextend your jaw.) One element, though, can be forgotten in the mix: Did you take the time to season your ancillary sandwich ingredients? No? Big mistake.

Let’s say you’re making a tuna sandwich layered with sharp cheddar cheese, Dijon mustard, and arugula. Your tuna salad — whether homemade or store-bought — is likely heavily seasoned, with pepper, salt, some sort of acid and oil, maybe cayenne, paprika, curry powder, it’s got flavor for days and we’re all so happy for it. Cheddar cheese: divine, a powerful legend. Dijon mustard, spicy and pungent, amps up the flavor of any sandwich by at least 50 percent. But that arugula you threw on at the last minute as a gesture toward health? You’re just going to let that sit dry and wilted and flavorless on top of all that goodness?

To some, this may seem obvious — you’re always adding salt and pepper to your nonmeat options. It’s possible you’re used to this as a vegetarian, when every element of your sandwich is derided as a side. But you need not stop at adding a little salt and pepper to your lettuce greens and tomato slices before throwing them onto your sandwich.

Have you considered dredging those same toppings in a dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar? Have you thrown your arugula into a little bowl of Caesar salad dressing, or sprinkled it with anchovy oil from the can? Would you consider pre-pickling those carrots like you would for a banh mi? Seasoning up those broccoli florets with cumin and curry powder and canola oil? What about dreadful red onions, made better with rice wine vinegar and gochugaru? Turn that avocado into guacamole; don’t let it do all that work on its own.

Your toppings deserve more than to be an afterthought — they may not be the stars of the show, but your sandwich would be nothing without them.

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