Monday, October 4, 2010

A Proper Farewell

Recently I have found myself at a crossroads during visits to farm stands.  The other day, for example, I walked down to Verrill Farm in Concord, MA and stood in their outdoor produce section presented with a predicament.  To my left I saw crates of butternut, acorn, and delicata squashes, practically asking me to crack them open, roast them, and make soup…all next to a warm fire, and probably while watching a football game.  Then, to my right, I saw crates of the last ears of corn, and an entire table of…what’s this?  The last-man-standing summer tomatoes?  I must’ve looked like the most conflicted shopper the produce section had ever seen. 

Do I let summer go and embrace fall, or hang on until Mr. Frost makes me let go?  I decided that that moment at the stand was probably the last living breath these summer treats would have before becoming compost, and I had to act accordingly.  With that, I reached for the tomatoes – the more delicate of the two summer options – and filled my up my basket.  Sure, technically it was fall, but that didn’t mean I still couldn’t give summer a proper goodbye.

That’s when I knew what I had to make; a sandwich so simple in principle that it would showcase the pure tomato justly, but with enough room for alteration to make it worthy of the fruit’s final bow (or vegetable’s, depending on who you ask).

That’s right, we’re talking about The Ultimate BLT.  This is when you go for the best of the best for every ingredient; bakery fresh bread (thanks Nashoba Bakery!), farm fresh lettuce and tomatoes (thanks Verrill!), high end bacon (thanks Vermont Smoke and Cure!), and an ultimate dressed up mayo spread (ingredients also thanks to Verrill).  The end product leaves you with a sandwich stacked so high with quality ingredients that the symphony of flavors in your mouth will lead you into a meal of silence.  Homemade black pepper candied bacon?  Lemon-garlic-herb mayo?  A slight tang of warm sourdough?  A refreshing crisp of lettuce, with a final hurrah of that juicy, sweet, and meaty tomato?  Go get a napkin and wipe off your drool, then get to the kitchen and give the tomato the proper farewell it deserves.  

Ultimate BLT Recipe
Serves 4

1 loaf of bakery fresh sourdough bread
1 head of fresh leaf lettuce
3 large garden tomatoes, cut into ¼” slices
1 lb package of bacon
¼ c. packed light brown sugar
Black pepper
1 c. mayonnaise
½ c. packed fresh basil leaves
I TB chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic
Zest of one whole lemon plus the juice of half of it
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place an oven safe cooling rack on top.   Cover rack with strips of bacon.  Generously sprinkle cracked black pepper over each strip of bacon.  Then sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bacon slices.  Bake in oven for around 20 minutes, depending on how you like your bacon.  Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the mayonnaise, basil, chives, garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a food processor or blender.  Blend - while pulsing to chop all the ingredients - until everything is evenly distributed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Slightly toast 8 slices of bread.  Spread each side of bread with herb mayo, and layer on the slices of tomato, bacon, and lettuce leaves.  Devour immediately. 

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