Holy trinity of tastes
Not too many people my age can count among their best friends an opinionated, overweight, swearing, chain-smoking, 94-year-old lady who insults you all the time. My Nana was one of a kind, and when she died this past spring, I was devastated. Right up until the end, we had chatted on the phone once a week, usually starting our conversations by talking about food.Chrissy, you [expletive deleted], why dont you cook more meat for your wonderful husband, she would bark, with unbridled contempt for my vegetarian diet. Um, Nana, lets stick to the recipe you were giving me for lasagna, I said as I attempted to steer her back on track.My Nanas recipes are scratched out on little pieces of paper, many buried in The Big Pile of Recipes. One day I will gather them and put together a pamphlet to distribute to my extended family.In the meantime, I will continue to explore food and cooking, but it will be like navigating without the North Star. Despite having lost my sounding board, I will try new ingredients and re-examine the old standards. I will sort through The Big Pile pondering which recipes to prepare for the week. At least, I console myself, I learned some really solid basics from an enthusiastic foodie and a master cook.
One of my recent culinary forays has been the BLT. Despite a recent self-imposed moratorium on the acquisition of new cookbooks, I accidentally purchased The BLT Cookbook by California chef and writer Michele Anna Jordan. Oops.But I was just fascinated by the authors passionate obsession with this sandwich whose charms may not be immediately obvious. Yet I get pulled in every time I read Jordans loving description of the BLT: The play of salt and acid, the silk of the tomato against the salt crunch of the bacon, the crisp refreshing pulse of lettuce, the juicy mingling of mayonnaise and tomato drippings: it is sheer delight.Jordans infatuation with the BLT is both alarming and infectious. The book jacket refers to a holy trinity of tastes. The first chapter In Praise of the BLT runs for 16 pages. There is an essay about lettuce. There are strictures about what kind of mayonnaise to use, opinions about toasting bread and recommendations about what to drink with BLTs (Pinot Noir flatters the sandwich).Arguably, the most critical component of the BLT is the tomato. If it werent for this seasonal fruit, the BLT would be a year-round sandwich. Jordan is adamant that the only tomatoes worthy of her favorite sandwich are vine-ripened and stored at room temperature. She urges readers to experiment with heirlooms from their local farmers market to find their bliss. A few weeks ago, I got together with my family just before a cousins wedding. At my urging, we made BLTs. Tomatoes and lettuce were picked from the garden. Crusty bread came from a local bakery. Depending on who the sandwich was for, we used real bacon, vegetarian bacon or turkey bacon.We sunk our teeth into this humble feast of flavors and textures. We closed our eyes and tasted the fleeting days of summer. We reveled in the dance of sweet, acid, fatty and crisp. We dabbed the juice off our chins.The silence was broken by my aunt. Did you know, she informed me, that BLTs were Nanas favorite sandwich? Christina Abuelo is market manager for the Foothill Farmers Market Association.
-adapted from The BLT CookbookIngredients1/2 cup mayonnaise2 teaspoons lemon juice1/2 teaspoon chipotle or chili powderfreshly ground black pepper1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/8-inch sliceskosher saltolive oil1 focaccia square, 10 x 10, but into four equal pieces1 medium slicing tomato, but in 1/2 slices4 to 6 basil leaves8 to 10 medium romaine lettuce leaves, shreddedPreparationCombine mayo, lemon juice, chipotle powder and black pepper to taste in a small bowl. Season the zucchini on both sides with salt, and brush with olive oil. Grill the zucchini until tender and covered with grill marks Toast the focaccia until it starts to color, then set on work surface. Spread mayonnaise mixture over each piece. After seasoning tomato slices with salt, put them on two pieces of the bread, then top with grilled zucchini. Arrange basil leaves on top of the zucchini and then add lettuce. Top with remaining bread. Serve immediately. Makes two servings.
Certified farmers markets are held Tuesdays at Kings Beach, located at the corner of Highway 28 and Coon Street; Tuesdays at Truckee, located on Brockway Road at the Truckee River Regional Park on Brockway Road; and Thursdays at Tahoe City. Hours at all markets are from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call 823-6183 or check http://www.foothillfarmersmarket.com.
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