The BLT is the perfect summer sandwich. For 12 short weeks, when the local tomato harvest is flooding farmers markets and home gardens are overflowing, the BLT rules. Unless, of course, you don’t eat bacon.
Although you may not yet be a fan of bacon analogs like Lightlife’s Fakin’ Bacon or Smart Bacon (both with Circle K certification and widely available), they are worth exploring if only to experience the glory of this classic take on the traditional combo. When these few simple ingredients come together in a golden ratio, even the most dubious skeptics become aficionados of the TLT.
Each product has its admirers. Fakin’ Bacon, made from marinated tempeh (a cultured soy product that has the same character and acquired taste as an aged blue cheese), is low-carb, high-protein and gluten-free. Smart Bacon, a flavored soy/wheat gluten combo, is lower in calories than its counterpart, has very little protein and virtually no carbs. Both are parve.
Whichever you choose, both crisp up in hot fat to achieve the rich, savory sensation that is usually associated with cured bacon. Don’t be tempted to skimp on the frying fat — one of the reasons people like real bacon so much is because it’s salty and greasy. Like any fried food, drain the strips on paper towels to remove excess oil.
Since this is essentially a glorified tomato sandwich, choose a beefsteak-style tomato, make sure they are dead ripe and always try to buy local. Then look for good quality greens and don’t skimp on the lettuce — make it a salad on a sandwich and pile on for the proper crunch factor. Finally, consider egg-free mayonnaise, a convincing no-cholesterol spread that also conveniently eliminates concerns about spoilage (not to be confused with “light” mayo, which only connotes less fat and fewer calories). A very good one, made from soy oil and found on the refrigerator shelf in most health food stores, is called Vegenaise.
Build the sandwich using the Golden Ratio as your guide, with roughly twice as much tomato as bacon. Remember, this is a tomato sandwich seasoned with bacon, and the tomato is king.
Fakin’ Bacon or Smart Bacon, 2-3 slices per sandwich
Lettuce, dark green or romaine
2-3 T. extra virgin olive oil for frying
Soy mayonnaise, such as Vegenaise
Salt and pepper
Whole-grain, white or rye toast, 2 slices
1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet and fry Smart or Fakin’ Bacon until browned and crisp, turning once. Add more oil if necessary after turning and watch carefully to prevent burning. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool and crisp a bit while preparing other
2. Meanwhile, prepare toast, allow to cool a little, and spread both pieces with mayo.
3. Break Fakin’ Bacon strips into two or three pieces and build sandwich with plenty of lettuce and tomato. Season tomato directly with salt and pepper. Cut in half or quarters and serve, preferably with a pickle and chips for the
• Add avocado, sliced or mashed, and red onions, thinly sliced.
• Substitute ketchup for mayonnaise to appeal to picky kids.
Tip: Fry up a whole package and store extra in the fridge for salads, sandwiches and breakfast scrambles. Reheat in the toaster oven if desired.
Where to Buy Local
At Hampstead’s Misty Valley Farms, corn and tomatoes reign along with local melons, peaches and berries, sold at several convenient locations.
• Pikesville: The Ruxton Road farm stand, across from the I-83 interchange near the corner of Falls Road and Old Court Road, is open every day from Mother’s Day through October from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Cockeysville: The farm’s main location, at the corner of Falls and Shawan Roads, is open until Christmas.
Baltimore is blessed with many neighborhood farmers markets that bring local produce directly to consumers. Two major markets stand out for their selection, prices and ambiance:
• The 32nd Street Farmers Market, at the corner of E. 32nd and Barclay streets, is open every Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon all year. Even with more than 50 summertime vendors, the Waverly Market as it is also known, manages to maintain a village atmosphere and offers live music year-round.
• The Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar, underneath the Fallsway at the end of the JFX, is open every Sunday between April and December from 7 a.m. to noon. This massive market is a Maryland melting pot where the whole region congregates to celebrate their love of food and craft. This is a great attraction to show off to out-of-town guests.
Ruth Goldstein is a local freelance writer.