Sunday, July 22, 2012

BLT Salad

BLT Salad on Black Acrylic

Perfect for When Tomatoes Are Ripe — and It’s Too Hot to Cook

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but in St. Louis (where I live), we’re having a hot, hot, hot summer.  So when it’s time for dinner, I want something light — and something that won’t require me to spend much time standing over a hot stove.

Enter the BLT Salad. 

When we think about the classic combination of bacon, lettuce, and tomato, we usually think sandwich.  But these ingredients are also prime salad fare.  And if you microwave the bacon (a great way to cook it, if you’re careful), you won’t heat up your kitchen at all. 

As a bonus, tomatoes are in season right now throughout much of the US.  You can probably find some ripe red ones at your local farmers’ market — or in your own backyard garden.  Tomatoes are at their most flavorful this time of year.  And this salad is a great showcase for them.

Terrific flavor, prime seasonal ingredients, easy to prepare — not to mention light and cool.  Sounds too good to be true. 

So what’s the catch?  Well, sometimes there isn’t one.


BLT Salad with Napkin and Fork, Black Background

Recipe:  BLT Salad

The sandwich version of a BLT tends to be about the bacon first, then the tomatoes, and finally the lettuce — which is almost an afterthought in some sandwiches.  In my BLT salad, the emphasis (and proportions) are reversed.  Lettuce and tomatoes are the stars of this salad, while bacon plays a supporting role.  But you can alter quantities to suit your taste. 

Mayonnaise is traditional in a BLT sandwich, and it works well for dressing this salad.  However, I often prefer to use Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing for a bit of extra zip.

This is a substantial salad that works better as a main course than as a starter, much like a Chef’s Salad. This recipe serves two, although you can easily scale it up to feed more people.

Assuming you have washed and chilled lettuce on hand, preparation time is about 10 minutes. Leftovers don’t keep well.

Ingredients
  • ~½ - ¾ pound of lettuce (or to taste; leaf lettuce, romaine, Boston bibb, Little Gem, or a mix; see Notes)
  • 4 slices of high quality bacon (or to taste; see Notes for much more about bacon)
  • 3 - 4 ripe medium-sized tomatoes (or to taste; may substitute cherry or grape tomatoes if good quality tomatoes aren’t available)
  • 3 - 6 tablespoons of mayonnaise or Blue Cheese Dressing (or to taste) 
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
  • a handful of Homemade Croutons as a garnish (very optional; I usually omit these; see Notes)
Procedure
  1. At least an hour (2 or more is better) before you want to serve the salad, wash and dry the salad greens, and tear into bite-size pieces.  Wrap in kitchen towel, and place in refrigerator crisper to, well, crisp.
  2. When ready to make the salad, prepare bacon.  I usually microwave – I put paper towels on a plate, arrange the bacon in a single layer, add another paper towel or two on top, and microwave.  If you’re doubling this recipe, you’ll need to do this in two batches.  Time depends on your oven and the amount of bacon you’re heating, so experimentation is necessary, but typically it’s about 4 minutes in my microwave.  You can also pan fry your bacon until crisp.  When done, either leave slices whole, or cut into 1-inch pieces.
  3. While bacon is cooking, wash, stem, and slice your tomatoes.  I often cut them into wedges – 6 or 8 per tomato.
  4. Place lettuce in large bowl.  Add mayonnaise or Blue Cheese Dressing — less than you think you’ll need.  Toss lettuce thoroughly to lightly coat leaves with dressing.  Taste, and add more dressing if necessary.  (Particularly when using a high-flavor dressing like Blue Cheese, you don’t want the taste of the dressing to overwhelm the salad).
  5. Add more dressing if necessary.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  Toss to incorporate, then place greens on 2 dinner-size plates.
  6. Arrange the bacon and tomatoes over the salad greens in a pattern that pleases you.  I often add an extra dollop of dressing on top of the salad, as kind of a dipping sauce for the tomatoes.
  7. Garnish with croutons if desired, and serve.
BLT Salad, Overhead View on Black

Notes
  • Bacon is an important ingredient in this salad, so make sure you use good quality.  I always make this salad with a premium brand of bacon because the flavor is so much better.  Supermarkets tend to carry the usual national brands, but most also offer at least one higher-quality (and more expensive) choice.  Experiment until you find one you like.  If you can find a bacon made by a small, local producer, it’s likely to be excellent.
  • Bacon with a pepper crust is terrific in this salad (or in anything, really).  Apple wood-smoked bacon is another great choice.
  • Because premium bacon has more flavor, you can get by with using less.  For this salad, I usually find 2 pieces of bacon per person to be more than enough.  But use as much as you want.
  • One problem with bacon is its sodium and fat content.  If this concerns you, there are turkey bacons on the market.  I haven’t tried them, but I understand some brands are quite good.
  • Fresh, ripe tomatoes are the star of this dish, so add as many as you like.  If you don’t have access to ripe, in-season tomatoes, grape or cherry tomatoes have decent flavor year-round and are a good substitute.
  • Leaf lettuce has always been my go-to in this salad.  But some supermarkets are starting to carry Little Gem lettuce, a hybrid of romaine, sweet butter, and iceberg butter lettuces.  (It’s also called Sweet Gem.)  Little Gems look a bit like miniature romaine lettuce heads and have a wonderful flavor.  In fact, I’m so bowled over by the taste and texture of this lettuce that I now use it all the time.  BTW, in my market, it’s the same price as romaine or green leaf lettuce.
  • Although I was vaguely aware that Little Gem existed, it was a post on Carolyn Jung’s blog, Food Gal that really made me pay attention to it. Carolyn also wrote an article on Little Gem lettuce in the publication, Food Arts. Both are worth checking out. 
  • Blue cheesing dressing isn’t traditional in a BLT sandwich, but its tangy flavor works quite well in this salad. If you prefer to use the traditional mayonnaise, however, you can substitute low fat if you choose — you won’t lose much flavor. Though I do find that whenever I use low-fat mayo, I want to add a bit more pepper for some reason. 
  • Adding the crouton garnish to this salad makes it seem more like a BLT sandwich (the bread part, you know).  I usually don’t add croutons since I don't think they add much in this salad, but you may find the idea appealing. 
  • Rather than adding croutons, I recommend serving this salad with a nice hard roll and some good butter. And a glass of wine. Just as I do with a Chef’s Salad. 
  • You might think the BLT sandwich evolved from a salad. After all, lettuce and tomatoes are frequent salad ingredients, and bacon is a common garnish. So maybe at some point a busy someone-on-the-go who wanted a portable salad hit upon the idea of clapping the ingredients between two slices of bread? That’s not how it happened, though. Instead, the Food Timeline suggests that the BLT sandwich actually evolved from “late Victorian-era tea sandwiches.” 
  • So the BLT sandwich came first, and the BLT salad evolved from the sandwich. Seems backwards to me, but there you have it.

BLT Salad with Napkin and Fork

Too Many Tomatoes!

OK, having too many delicious home-grown tomatoes is not really a problem.  And in the fall we’re going to lament being forced back to the tasteless supermarket variety.  But at the moment, our garden is producing tomatoes faster than we can eat them. 

With the hot, dry weather we’ve been having, Mrs Kitchen Riffs has been watering our vegetables daily to keep them perky and productive.  And she picks the day’s ripe produce while she’s at it.  Most days I’ll hear the doorbell ring — and there will be Mrs K R, her arms so loaded with our “harvest” that she’s unable to manage the doorknob.  I have to open the door for her so she can unload the tomatoes (and cukes and what not) onto the kitchen counter.

We’ve been eating tomatoes daily – not just in BLT Salads (and sandwiches), but as plain slices, or tossed with cukes, olive oil, and vinegar, or with pasta — any way we can think of.  And we’ve been giving a fair number away.

You’ve heard of salad days?  Well, these are our tomato days. 

Now, what am I going to do with the latest delivery from Mrs K R (a/k/a the Tomato Lady)?

You may also enjoy reading about:
Homemade Croutons
Chef's Salad
Pesto Pasta
Gazpacho
White Bean and Tuna Salad
Tuna Pasta Salad
Roast Strawberry Salad
Salade Niçoise
Spinach Salad with Parmesan
Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
Creamy Cole Slaw
Potato Salad Basics
Pineapple, Coconut, and Carrot Salad
Soupe au Pistou

74 comments:

  1. As a boy, BLTs were often our Sunday lunch, once the tomatoes started ripening. This is a great idea, bringing the same flavors to the table.

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    1. Hi Chicago John, I don't know many people who don't love BLTs - we're having both the sandwich and the salad at least once a week at this time of the year. Nice thing about the salad is it pairs quite well with a glass of wine! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. John, after I read this post I had an urge to get my basket and run outside for some tomatoes... Another basket I would give to Mrs. KR... :)
    Tomatoes are my favorite fruit/vegetable. Some years I received for my birthday tomatoes on the vine instead of flowers and I absolutely adored it! Tomatoes in season are the best, I planted about 8 varieties this year on my tiny patio/garden, and all are tasty. So we are in salad season too, making tomato-sweet onion- cucumbers-lettuce salad every day, sometimes I have it twice a day. Love this time of the year! :)

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    1. Hi Marina, Mrs K R was ringing the doorbell again today! Giving tomato plants instead of flowers is such a terrific gift idea! And we often are having tomatoes twice a day too. Haven't figured out a really good breakfast dish for tomatoes, although I'm sure I eventually will. (Well, you can use them in an omlet; and the English are famous for grilled tomatoes in their breakfasts. So I guess maybe I need to add those dishes to my breakfast fare!). Thanks for your comment.

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  3. Like I said, I think bacon is one of the top food groups! And as I didn't eat tomatoes as a child, I am making up for lost time now. A delicious salad, now what about tomato sandwiches? I think I'll go make lunch now!

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    1. Hi This is How I Cook, bacon is indeed one of the top food groups! Such great flavor - love the stuff. It's something that's always in our refrigerator (right next to the Champagne). Tomato sandwiches are awesome - we've been having those, too. With onion. Heaven! Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Mmmm your salad makes me want to start eating bacon, it looks so crispy and refreshing :D
    Great flavours and photographs!
    As for excess tomatoes (YUM), my mum makes the best spaghetti sauce in bulk and freezes it :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Choc Chip Uru, oh, we're putting some of the tomatoes by - but they're so wonderful fresh, we're putting all our efforts into eating them that way. And just because you don't eat bacon doesn't mean that you can't look at it. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  5. Your pictures make me hungry. Bacon is the best. It tastes good alone or with almost everything. I crave fruit and salads in this heat, although tonight we're having bacon wrapped filets appropriately. Yum.

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    1. Hi Susan, fruit and salads are #1 with us at the moment. Which is why bacon is so great in this dish - a little goes a long way. Bacon wrapped filets sound wonderful! Thanks for your comment.

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  6. A great BLT, especially when it's really hot and you just don't want something quite as heavy as the classic sandwich. ;)

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    1. Hi Carolyn, my feelings exactly! And although we really like the sandwich, you just don't get enough lettuce - which can also be so flavorful. Thanks for your comment.

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  7. Oh yum. I would have big crusty croutons in there - even if it doesn't add much. :) It looks so inviting!

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    1. Hi Maureen, it's weird because usually I enjoy croutons in salads, but in this one? Not really. Just me. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. What a gorgeous salad... now this I know my hubby will eat:)

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    1. Hi Tania, it's really a great salad - one of our favs. And I'll bet your hubby wil enjoy it! Thanks for your comment.

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  9. I love how you've photographed this. It looks so good and the colours are lovely. Yes, a BLT makes a great lunch or dinner. I keep hearing what a hot summer you're having. I wouldn't mind swapping with you for a week or two! xx

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    1. Hi Hotly Spiced, the weather has been brutal. I'd love to swap weather with you for a bit! Maybe we can work something out? It'd be fun to do your Christmas in July celebration. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I love a BLT, so this salad sounds like a perfect meal for this hot summer. Our tomatoes aren't quite ripe in the garden, so we are patiently waiting for them to ripen.

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    1. Hi Words of Deliciousness, it's a super salad. I suspect your tomatoes will be all the sweeter when they finally ripen. Something to look forward to. We're just glad to have tomatoes this year - last year it got hot quite early, when the tomatoes were setting their fruit, and I learned that when it's above 95 degrees when they're fruiting, that they don't set fruit. Bummer. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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  11. This is such an informative post and the pictures are great. Too many tomatoes is a problem I would LOVE to have!!!

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    1. Hi everydaymaven, oh, I'm not really complaining about too many tomatoes! I know I'll miss them in the fall. Thanks for your kind words, and the comment.

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  12. Send your tomato excess to Hong kong please!!!! I am dying for a homegrown tomato!
    Yummy salad, I could eat this every week. Any ideas you can share as I do not have a proper microwave cooking apparatus for bacon so the grease stays off the bacon. Maybe I can line up some wooden chopsticks in my dish?
    Other ideas welcome...
    Have a super week.
    BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, another great way to cook bacon is to roast it in the oven at 350 degrees. Depending on how thick your bacon is and how much fat it has, this can take anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes. Usually 12 - 16 is what my oven takes. You can either put the bacon on a rack, or on the chopsticks! Thanks for your comment.

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  13. That first photo is a spectacular work of art. Truly glorious.
    Tomatoes here are so expensive at the moment and they are my favourite vegetable. I can't wait for summer.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, when you have fresh tomatoes, we won't! So I look forward to reading all about how you are eating tomatoes every day. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  14. Any salad with crispy bacon I am in. That looks good!

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    1. Hi Raymund, isn't bacon wonderful in a salad? Or, well, anything? ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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    2. Yeah anything with bacon is good, even sweet dishes now have it like cookies and ice cream

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    3. Some of the sweet dishes can be good, although others are a bit weird. Bacon probably jumped the shark years ago, but I still love it!

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  15. tat would be my favourite lunch. i just love the bacon.

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    1. Hi love2dine, it's good stuff! We have it for lunch, dinner - whenever! Thanks for commenting.

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  16. I love the sound of this as a salad....very refreshing with just a bit of bacon - yum! And, that blue cheese dressing would be perfect on it! Blue cheese dressing isn't very common here, but grew very fond of it last year in Canada. Great pictures, too :)

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    1. Hi Ali, it's a great salad. And the blue cheese dressing is wonderful in it. Thanks for your comment.

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  17. Wow, this salad looks so delicious especially with the bacon in it!

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    1. Hi Asmita, it really is a wonderful salad. Thanks for your comment.

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  18. I am recently eating tomatoes like apples since they are so flavorful and juicy. I have never been a big fan of BLT sandwich but you sold me on the salad :)

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    1. Hi Ilke, we sometimes eat tomatoes like apples too! The problem with some BLT sandwiches is the bacon overpowers the tomato and lettuce, IMO. I like bacon - a lot - but I want to taste the other ingredients, too. The salad solves that problem. Thanks for commenting.

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  19. I am so bummed that our tomato harvest is nothing compared to last year's. Actually, it IS nothing. I got blooms and no fruit on all four plants. Waahh!!! And I agree about the bland store-bought tomatoes. Yuck!

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    1. Hi FamilySpice, we had no tomato harvest last year - when the plants were blooming, the weather was just too hot for them to set fruit. Major bummer. So sorry you're not enjoying your own this year. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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  20. What an absolutely beautiful BLT salad idea! It makes me sad that I can't eat it, but I will definitely consider making it as an appetizer or side for my next potluck--I'd love to make it into a roll-style (fakin')bacon-wrapped lettuce and cherry tomato dish. Thanks!

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    1. Hi wallflourgirl, the roll idea is intriguing. If you go that route, I think I'd include croutons (or something) to help give it some structure. Thanks for your comment.

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  21. I just tried growing my own tomatoes this year - but the cherry kind, not the larger type. I plan on adding the variety of tomatoes though for next year, and then I can have the endless supply of them for a dish like this. Beautiful.

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    1. Hi Yudith, the cherry tomatoes actually have great flavor! But it's fun to grow several kinds. Hope next year your arms are overflowing with tomatoes! Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Bobby and I love fresh tomato season because that means we get to eat a BLT or two. :) I love the idea of the salad in place of the sandwich! The blue cheese dressing is a perfect match the definitely the direction I would go. Now I just need to keep B from eating all of the bacon and blue cheese before assembling the salad! A beautiful salad!!!

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    1. Hi MJ, the blue cheese dressing is awesome in this. And I know what you mean about snacking on ingredients while assembling a dish - though usually I'm the one stealing ingredients! Thanks for your comment.

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  23. I love how simple this salad is and it's BLT - everyone's favorite! I need to check your homemade blue cheese dressing next. I am trying to avoid carbohydrate when I can, so this breadless BLT salad sounds like a good idea. Your photo is so fascinating! I love your unique styling!

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    1. Hi Nami, this is a totally simple dish and barely needs a recipe - but it's so good, it fun to write about. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  24. A scrumptious salad! So summery and enjoyable. Blue cheese dressing is one of my favorite sauces... I wish I had a garden to grow my own vegetables.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, blue cheese has such a great flavor that I'll eat anything it's remotely associated with! It's great to be able to grow your own veggies - I hope you have the opportunity someday. Thanks for your comment.

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  25. my goodness...am turning a big fan of your recipe collections & gorgeous cliks..;)
    Tasty Appetite

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    1. Hi Jay, ;-) Thanks for your kind words, and your comment.

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  26. Oh man! I wish i lived in a house with a huge backyard so i can grow veggies too. It's so hard to grow veggies when you live in a tiny apartment! Your tomatoes look so ripe and fresh and i am sure this salad must have tasted brilliant! And that main picture is breathtaking....i love the reflection on the base!

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    1. Hi Cakewhiz, you can probably grow some herbs in pots, but veggies are hard in an apartment. The tomatoes were absolutely ripe - which is what made the salad (well, the bacon helped too!). I'm such a sucker for the reflection shots I probably do them too often. But when a subject works, they can be quite pretty. Thanks for your kind words, and the comment.

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  27. I have to say I haven't had a BLT in ages but if I'm going to have one there's no way I'm substituting it with turkey bacon. I have tried it and it tastes good but nothing compared to the real thing.

    I've seen those Little Gems but never paid attention to the name, now I will and make a point of trying them.

    Again and I know I sound like a broken record your photos are amazing. When I get back in town will you show me how you take these - they're INCREDIBLE!

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    1. Hi Vicki, I'm with you on bacon - if you're going to have it, use the real thing. But I know not everyone thinks that way. Thanks for the kind words (and comment) - I'll be happy to give you a photo demo.

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  28. BLT?? In a salad form! This is great! BLT's are one of my favorite sandwiches. I can't believe I haven't thought of making it into a salad, yum!

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    1. Hi Cathleen, it's a great salad! Different from the sandwich, of course, and I certainly still eat BLT sandwiches - but overall I think the salad is better. Thanks for your comment.

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  29. Nothing but absolutely nothing beats a classic BLT made with fresh ripe summer tomatoes, Nothing!!! (I like your dressing suggestion for the salad version but I'm afraid for a BLT sandwich, I must "bring out the Hellman's:)

    Great list of tomato links for the salad days of summer, thanks for sharing, Kitchen...

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    1. Hi Louise, I agree with you on the sandwich - mayo rules (which is Hellman's is our house, too). And fresh tomatoes in a BLT (salad or sandwich) - just too good. Thanks for your comment.

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  30. Ok, all this talk of how hot and wonderful the American summer is has been making me jealous! We have had 2 years of a not so great summer here in Sydney and now it's winter and freezing. Aside from my rant about your wonderful summer - I love this idea and when it gets a little warmer will be giving it a try!

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    1. Hi Amanda, sorry about all the weather talk. ;-) Actually, for me at least, I like a not-so-hot summer. And all our heat is accompanied by a major drought in some of our major grain producing regions, meaning we're going to be seeing much higher food prices coming. ;-( Anyway, this salad does demand good tomatoes, although I always find the cherry and grape tomatoes to be a pretty good substitute. Thanks for your comment.

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  31. We're having a hot summer in Toronto - but I think you've got us beat! Still, another salad recipe is always welcome, and this one looks great. Also, I'll keep my eyes open for Little Gem lettuce. I'm not familiar with it, but it sounds terrific!

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    1. Hi Beth, the Little Gem lettuce is really delish - I think you'll like it. One of these days it'll starting cooling off here, but then we'll all be complaining it's too cold! ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  32. It is horribly hot here in Jordan too.
    I have 2 tomato plans growing on my window and whenever the kids spare some of the tomatoes we get to enjoy them in a wonderful salad..you are right..fresh tomatoes can be the star of many wonderful salads

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    1. Hi Sawsan, sorry that you're enduring the same heat we are. Glad you're getting some fresh tomatoes - they have amazing flavor, don't they? Thanks for your comment.

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  33. The first photo is just mind blowing beautiful! I love BLTs sandwiches but never tried a salad. Thanks for sharing I'm definitely going to try it. Hopefully our hot weather will finally stick around.

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    1. Hi Spicie Foodie, I love the sandwich, but if I had to choose I think I'd take the salad - it's more versatile. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  34. You've even made a good old BLT look so delicious and photogenic! Amazing. :D And in salad form too, too creative. ;)

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    1. Hi Jenny, ;-) When black acrylic works, it really works - but it isn't suitable for every subject. And you have to keep your composition simple. The salad is terrific - reveals a new dimension to this classic. Thanks for your comment.

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  35. This is a fantastic main dish salad. I agree that your first photo is truly award winning and totally mouthwatering!

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    1. Hi Mother Rimmy, this really is great - and it's your kind of dish, I think (you might be inclined to make it a bit lighter). Thanks so much for the kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  36. I've had my first BLT sandwich of the season...it has become a ritual with our first ripe tomato. Why haven't I ever thought to turn it into a salad. Thank you for the suggestion. Happy that I stopped by today.

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    1. Hi Karen, the sandwich is such a great showcase for the tomato (and bacon!) that it's easy enough not to think beyond that - we didn't for years! If I had to choose only one, though, I think I'd take the salad. But I don't have to make that choice, so I frequently eat both. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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