Less is more.
~Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, architect

Bleat: Middle English bleten, from Old English blǣtan; akin to Latin flēre to weep, Old English bellan to roar — more at BELLOW; before 12th century; intransitive verb: to make the natural cry of a sheep or goat; also: to utter a similar sound, such as whimper.

Classic comfort with simple, balanced charm. A BLT may lack culinary show but when constructed of noble, hand hewn ingredients, it should be canonized. Superb bacon, artisanal bread, indulged aioli, heirloom tomatoes, and fresh lettuce. Should you take the next step (which I invariably do)…farm fresh eggs. This is food synergy rarely replicated, and done in the right ratios, BLT is the stuff of fetish. You know who you are.

The first bite will make you whimper, and on a good day, the last will produce a sated bellow (or bleat).

BLT

4 thick slices of superior slab bacon

2 thick slices artisanal bread, such as ciabatta, pain au levain or focaccia, toasted
Aioli
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heirloom tomato slices
Butter lettuce leaves

2 t unsalted butter
1 t extra virgin olive oil
2 large farm fresh eggs

Fresh avocado, pitted, peeled and sliced (optional)

In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, turning, until crisp, about 8 minutes or so. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Spread the aioli on the top slice of toast. Then top the bottom slice of toast with the bacon, tomato and lettuce. However you stack it, avoid having the bleeding fresh tomatoes directly touching the bread which can turn sodden.

In a small, nonstick skillet, melt the butter and oil. Add the eggs and fry over moderate heat, until cooked with the yolk should still runny. They are done when the whites are set and the outer edges are just starting to curl. If the edges start to curl before the whites in the center are fully cooked, cover the pan with a lid. Carefully slide the eggs onto the lettuce and close the sandwich.

Pourboire: this may need be a forethought and not an option. The restaurant technique of chucking the skillet and oven roasting the bacon allows you to cook more strips which are more evenly cooked with less mess. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Arrange strips on a metal rack and place on the lined baking sheet. Roast–rotating the pan once halfway through cooking–until brown and crispy, about 20-30 minutes. Cooking time varies based upon oven and bacon thickness. Drain on paper towels.

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Far from a final curtain on tomatoes, but a focus on fresh before our cherished season does begin to fade.

TOMATO, GARLIC & BASIL PASTA

1 lb fresh cappellini or linguine
Sea salt

2 T extra virgin olive oil
5 fresh, plump garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 t red pepper flakes

4 C fresh, ripe, local tomatoes (preferably heirloom), cored, seeded and chopped
(or 4 C fresh cherry tomatoes, halved)
3/4 C chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 C fresh basil leaves chiffonade (cut into ribbons)
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated to taste

Prepare fresh pasta. See Basic Pasta Dough post (06.10.09)

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil and then add a few tablespoons of sea salt.

In a large, heavy skillet heat olive oil over medium high until shimmering and add garlic. Sauté garlic until just before golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and cook 30 seconds more.

Add chopped tomatoes to skillet and sauté over medium high. Turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes begin to juice up and just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add stock and cook down for an additional 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until almost al dente, about 1-2 minutes. Drain pasta well and carefully add to skillet with tomatoes, et al., gently tossing to coat well.

Serve in shallow soup bowls with a liberal grating of parmigiano-reggiano and garnished with ribboned basil.

A man taking basil from a woman will love her always.
~Sir Thomas Moore

This is admittedly not in keeping with the Tour, but it is a seasonal offering. Tomorrow is the next to last stage with the critical climb up Mont Ventoux, so I will return to France—always the migratory instinct. Oh, to be a tern.

GRILLED AHI TUNA WITH TOMATO, MINT & BASIL VINAIGRETTE

Fresh ahi tuna fillets, thickly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper and white pepper
4 T fresh basil leaves, chopped
8 T fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

3 ripe medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
4 plump, fresh cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 T fresh lime juice
1 T sherry vinegar
1 T minced fresh parsley
2 medium shallots, peeled and finely minced
Sea salt

Basil sprigs and nicoise olives, to garnish

Season the tuna fillets all over with black and white pepper. In a shallow dish, stir together 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons each of the mint and basil. Coat the tuna pieces in the oil and herbs to coat them. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours.

In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes and garlic with the remaining mint and basil, lime juice, sherry vinegar, parsley, and shallots. Drizzle in remaining olive oil, whisking vigorously, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate so the flavors coalesce.

Preheat the barbeque grill to medium high. Retrieve the tuna and the tomato mixture from the refrigerator and allow them to rest at room temperature until the grill is ready for cooking.

Lightly sprinkle the tuna pieces all over with salt. Grill the tuna about 2-4 minutes per side until seared on the outside and still rare in the center.

To serve, spoon a layer of the tomato mint mixture onto the centers of the serving plates. Slice the tuna filets and fan them over the vinaigrette. Garnish with basil sprigs and olives.

Tarte aux Tomates

April 21, 2009

I can resist everything but temptation.
~Oscar Wilde

Admittedly, this posting is seasonally premature. But, we are being treated to a spate of euphoria-provoking warm weather that hearkens back to past tomato days…so the tarte temptation was irresistable. Alas, the allure of savory tarts! Please keep this delectable pie in mind for sultry summertime, when these red, yellow, and green baubles dangle from the vine in varying shape and size. Was that overly salacious?

TARTE AUX TOMATES (TOMATO TART)

1 (9″) frozen pie shell, thawed or fresh savory pie dough rolled and fitted to a pie dish
3 large fresh heirloom tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/2″ slices and well drained

1/4 C Dijon mustard
1 C Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated

1 T fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 T fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Line the shell with foil and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the weights and foil. Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes more or until light golden. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Turn up the oven and preheat to 400 F

Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes. Spread the mustard over the bottom of the shell and sprinkle the cheese over it. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in 1 overlapping layer. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes are soft, 35 to 40 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the tarragon, thyme, garlic, olive oil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the tart with this mixture when immediately removed from the oven.