Flash in the Pan 

Of BLTs, BLOATS, and basil lemonade

In the world of food, there are many flavor combinations that work especially well together. Trained chefs are well-versed in the known combinations, and competent enough to discover new ones. For the rest of us, there are many tried-and-true combinations we use in our everyday lives, such as oil and vinegar, peanut butter and jelly, wine and cheese, and lemon and fish.

What they all have in common is the juxtaposition of a rich, fatty component and an acidic or otherwise sharp component. This dance produces many of the best flavor sensations in the world. It’s why pickles, onions and catsup taste good on a cheeseburger, and potato chips taste good with vinegar. The fat coats the tongue, and the acid cuts through the fat and tingles the taste buds.

There are some other important flavor facts worth mentioning as well.

Mayonnaise is good on almost anything.

Bacon is good with almost anything.

Today I praise an elegantly masterful food combination that employs all of the aforementioned rules: a simple sandwich of bacon, lettuce and tomato, also known as the BLT.

Summertime is generally the best time for sandwiches, because so much of what goes inside your sandwich is ripe. The BLT is no exception, especially when you consider the seldom-discussed fact that a BLT is not complete unless it includes onions—which are also in season. I don’t know why they don’t call it a BOLT, or a BLOT. Shoot, you could even promote the “and” to uppercase status and call it a BLOAT. This wouldn’t be unfair, considering the fat and carbs involved, and the quantity of consumption inspired by such flavor perfection.

So perfect and so simple—there isn’t a whole lot of advice I can give on how to make a BLOAT. The most important thing is to use the best quality ingredients available, and that means local. I can also tell you that toasting the bread before applying the mayonnaise is highly advisable. It’s important to put mayonnaise on both pieces of bread, so as to ensure that both onions and tomatoes come into full contact with the mayonnaise. The other side of the tomato should be in contact with the bacon. As for the lettuce…I think Greenleaf is best. Baby greens work really well, too.

You can go fancy, and fancier, or as over-the-top fancy as suits your fancy. But if, after cleansing your palate with a pickle or a little dish of sorbet, you return for a bite of a BLOAT, you might find that your concoction, no matter how fancy, won’t beat the BLOAT’s inherently elegant simplicity. This isn’t to say it’s not worth experimenting, especially now, in the season of the sandwich.

Not only are the ingredients fresh, but hot weather favors a cool meal, and sandwiches—even with toasted bread—can be served cold.

Another reason sandwiches are good in the summertime is that you can serve them with basil lemonade.

This drink requires fresh basil, picked within 24 hours of consumption. Crush the basil leaves in the bottom of a pitcher with lemon juice and sugar (or lemonade powder, available in bulk at many cool stores). Add a little hot water to this—to extract the basil flavor and dissolve the sugar—and stir. Then fill the pitcher with cold water and ice cubes, stir and serve with your sandwich.

If you really want to go wild, consider setting up a build-your-own-sandwich bar. Set out a bunch of different summer sandwich fillers and experiment. I recommend open-faced sandwiches, which allow you to try different combinations before your tummy is full.

Salads go great on the sandwich bar. For dressing, I recommend the following vinaigrette: Mix one clove crushed garlic with 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. I like this vinaigrette because it contains mustard, which works well with the sandwich vibe. Toss cucumber slices in the same vinaigrette if you like.

Make a bowl of mashed basil, olive oil, garlic, and pine or Brazil nuts. Try smearing this mixture on a piece of bread along with goat cheese or feta, and toast it until the bread browns and the cheese melts. Toss some garlic or onion slices in the pan when you cook your bacon and put those in a little bowl in your sandwich bar. I stay away from most meats, which can dominate a sandwich, although a little proscuitto or, of course, bacon will work nicely.

As you munch, you can doctor-up each bite to suit the results of your ever-evolving exploration in combining foods. Need more onion? More mayo? Avocado? Capers? Got some apricot chutney left over from last year? Dab some on the edge of your bread, perhaps with some salad on top, or green onion, and chomp.

But if the idea of all those options makes your head spin and you want a sure-fire winner to serve with your basil lemonade, go BLOAT.


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