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It’s BLT Season

Perfect BLT tomato

Finally.  BLT season is here!  Easily one of my favorite food seasons (along with stone fruit season, green garlic season, etc…).  I freely admit that for the last four days I have eaten a BLT at least twice a day.  Now obviously, most people can figure out how to make a BLT.  I thought I would share some personal opinions (and a few facts) that might make your BLT just a little bit better.

First, a set in stone fact.  DON’T REFRIGERATE TOMATOES.  Just like stone fruits, pears, etc… refrigeration does bad things to great product. Here I give you fact from the author of the bible (a.k.a. Harold McGee, author of “On Food and Cooking” Scribner 2004 revised edition).

“Tomatoes came originally from a warm climate and should be stored at room temperature. Their fresh flavor readily suffers from refrigeration. Tomatoes at the mature-green stage are especially sensitive to chilling at temperatures below about 55ºF, and suffer damage to their membranes that results in minimal flavor development, blotchy coloration, and a soft, mealy texture when they are brought back to room temperature. Fully ripe tomatoes are less sensitive, but lose flavor due to the loss of flavor producing enzyme activity. Some of this activity can come back, so refrigerated tomatoes should be allowed to recover at room temperature for a day or two before eating.”

Basically, just don’t do it.

sprinkle the tomatoes with fresh basil

Next up, I like to marinate tomatoes for at least half an hour before eating them (though marinating for a few hours, certainly isn’t going to hurt). I typically peel my tomatoes. To do this, cut a very shallow, small X on the bottom of the tomato, just deep enough to break the skin. Put the tomato in boiling water for five to ten seconds depending on ripeness. Remove the tomato and let it cool for a minute or two. The skin where you made the X should be peeled back slightly. Use a pairing knife, pull the skin away from the flesh.

Cut your tomatoes into slices or wedges, whichever you prefer, and sprinkle with chopped shallot, basil, pepper, and some good olive oil.  I would do the same thing for most dishes using raw tomato.  In the picture, I used Fino Verde basil, which has very small leaves, and Tasmanian pepper (an extremely floral pepper that can be obtained through Le Sanctuaire http://www.le-sanctuaire.com/)  Another idea would be to use garlic oil. To make this, submerge peeled garlic cloves in olive oil and cook in a 250ºF oven until the garlic is soft.  You now have garlic confit and garlic flavored oil.

Bacon was made for BLT's

Now, the bacon.  The only trick with this one is finding the best.  I am partial to Benton’s from Tennessee, but if there is a good local pork producer, it is hard to go wrong.

Lettuce.  Boston Bibb is a good lettuce for BLTs, but I like something with a little more spice.  My favorite is mustard greens.  Dark purple and vibran green with an intense mustard flavor.  You probably wouldn’t want to eat a salad made solely of these as they are so spicy, but on a sandwich they’re great.  In second place is a very spicy wild arugula.

Like the bacon, the bread is all about finding a great product, except being local is even more important.  We all know how quickly bread can transform from sublime to mundane.  Search out a local bakery and look for a soft crusted bread.  When you are making a dish with only three or four ingredients it is imperative that you use the best.  With such a tight focus, any mediocre product is going to stand out.

Dressing.  Now this one is open for debate.  My two current favorite spreads for my BLT are guacamole or Kewpie mayo.  I know I use the stuff in half my recipes but it is because it is so damn good.  Pick some up already.  And lose that “Ewwwwww” face.  Seriously, it’s delicious.


3 comments for “It’s BLT Season”

  1. Tyson, after you submitted this post, Aimee and I made these and they were outstanding. I agree, it’s all about the bread – fresh sourdough from out local bakery (Hi-Rise in Cambridge). Probably one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. The bitter greens are a must!

    Posted by Adrian Mott | August 12, 2009, 3:11 pm
  2. I’ve tried convincing people here in the Caribbean so often not to refrigerate tomatoes – no luck :( In some supermarkets they even package them and place them in the fridge section with other veggies. So frustrating!

    Posted by Cynthia Nelson | August 14, 2009, 4:16 pm
  3. I think this is the reason I never liked tomatoes until I was seventeen. Once I tried a real summer tomato, I realized that I just didn’t like the mealy, watery version you get when they are out of season and refrigerated. I still don’t. Great post! Such a treat!

    Posted by Aimee Blake | August 25, 2009, 2:12 pm

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