Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tomato Bacon Sandwich

No, it’s not a typo. It’s not a BLT. It’s a tomato bacon sandwich. And since tomatoes are the star of this sandwich, they get top billing.

There are only 4 ingredients in this recipe, but the possibilities are endless. I grew up on bacon, lettuce tomato sandwiches. They had the standard white bread (we never ate wheat in my family while we were growing up), the obligatory 3 or 4 slices of bacon (usually Oscar Mayer) and a couple of slices of tomato, nothing fancy or heirloom, just a hothouse tomato. Nothing memorable, but good.

My husband introduced me to bacon/tomato sandwiches. Toasted honey wheat bread slathered in mayo with a bunch of bacon and tomato slices. No wilting lettuce to worry about or to take away from the bacon tomato bite. Just a big ole juicy sandwich that required a lot of napkins.

I have now perfected the tomato bacon sandwich using the following techniques. I hope you will try some of these variations and let me know what you think. I would also be interested in what kind of sandwich you enjoy. One chapter in my book is on wraps, pannini’s and sandwiches.

I follow the same rules for every sandwich I make. It’s all about the BREAD. I could live on bread alone. I’m a carboholic! I go out of my way to try bread from anywhere. I go nuts in Europe, mostly France and Italy over the bread and pastries….I even gave serious thought to ordering a loaf of Poilane French Bread ( this special baker in Paris, but found out the cost of the bread and shipping was over $80.00. I could not justify that, but almost tried.

For this sandwich, I prefer an artisan loaf of country or farm bread. Sometimes it’s called peasant bread. If I can not find that bread I’ll settle for a fresh sourdough. It is available everywhere these days, in fact, Publix makes a pretty good loaf. Panera and Whole foods also has great bread choices. I usually do not have the bread sliced, as I prefer to slice at home. If I’m going to make a triple-decker, I usually cut the middle piece a little thinner than the outside pieces. It’s all in the construction of the sandwich. But once I have chosen my bread, I move on to bacon.

I like most Bacon, but have been buying the uncured thick sliced. I usually find this at a specialty market. But everyday bacon is o.k. and even turkey bacon is good, but it definitely changes the flavor. For 2 triple-decker sandwiches, I usually allow 6 slices per person. I fry my bacon on a griddle. Some people I know prefer micro-waving or baking their bacon. I drain the slices on paper towel and set aside.

The tomatoes are the best part. Of course, I pick what it’s my garden first. I love a mixture of red, green and yellows. I slice each tomato pretty thin, because I hate to bite into a sandwich and have the tomato slice slip out the other side. A thin slice prevents that from happening. I barely salt and pepper each slice of tomato. I usually allow 3-4 slices per double-decker, depending on the size of the bread and the size of the tomato. I have been known to slice a tomato into pieces so every inch of bread is covered with a tomato bite…did I tell you that I love tomatoes!

I only use light mayo. I prefer Kraft, but any kind will work. Sometimes I add chopped basil to the mayo, depends on the mood.

For a standard tomato bacon sandwich here is the blueprint:

3 slices of honey wheat sandwich bread, or artisan farm, ciabatta, or sourdough bread (sliced into ½ inch slices)

4 slices of tomato (see pic for thickness) and use summer ripe tomatoes when possible

6 slices of crisp bacon

3 ½ teaspoons of light mayo

Toast bread on light to medium setting. Do not over-toast. Bread should be done when it begins to turn golden. Spread 1 teaspoon of mayo on bread. Top with 2 slices of tomato and 3 slices of bacon. Spread another teaspoon of mayo on next slice of bread and put that slice on top of bacon tomato. Then spread another teaspoon of mayo on top of that piece and layer remaining tomato and bacon slices. Spread last piece of toast with remaining mayo and top sandwich. Push down to firmly secure sandwich and cut in half diagonally. (see pic).

Serve with chips and a glass of milk. (This is the way my husband likes to eat it)

Variations that you must try:

Add slices or ripe avocado to any layer
Add slices of turkey to any layer
Try spreading soft Gorgonzola to the top slice of bread instead of remaining mayo, YUM.
Melt 1 slice of white cheddar on the middle layer and then build sandwich up from there
Add chopped basil to mayo
Add chopped seeded tomatoes to mayo for a double tomato delight

*In the August copy of Martha Stewart Living magazine, there is a great article on heirloom seed harvesting. I think I’m going to try this.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

2 crazy nights, 1 good meal

I was ready to give you the recipe for flatbread with tomatoes, roasted garlic and basil since we are talking about summer tomatoes. But my Tuesday and Wednesday nights were so crazy, I have to tell you what happened. And a good meal came out of it.

In Alabama we have great produce, but we also have great big storms and Tuesday night was the biggest one in a long time. It started out sunny and bright around 5pm. My husband and I were out in the backyard watching the dogs play. We decided to grill out hamburgers and I went inside to start preparing. Around 6:00 Jesse lit the grill and came inside to get the meat. The sky looked kinda dark, but lately we have gotten a lot of big black clouds but no rain. In fact we even watered the garden knowing we would not get any rain. And for further confirmation, the weatherman on the 6pm news said nothing about rain in our area….all those signs should have been a warning of what was to come.

At 6:30 Jesse put the hamburgers on the grill. It was beginning to sprinkle, so he ran back inside. Just to be on the safe side, we gave Teddy (our Lab/Great Dane) a Benadryl. He is afraid of storms and the thunder was rumbling in the distance. By the time the burgers were ready to flip, the rain was coming down very hard and lightening was popping in the skies. The thunder grew louder and closer. Just before the heavy stuff came down, Jesse had grabbed our dinner and was safely inside but very wet. The skies broke open.Rain was coming down in sheets at first and then buckets. Lightening was everywhere and the thunderboomers felt like they were hitting the house with every crack. Teddy was on his second Benadryl. We turned off the TV and ate our burgers in silence, waiting for the storm to pass and praying the power stayed on. Just then a huge gust of wind took the screens off the front window. I dropped my plate and without thinking I ran out front to grab them so they would not fly down the street. Within 5 seconds I was completely soaked, but the screens were safe. My husband was looking at me like I just saved a puppy.

The storm eventually passed, about 2 hours later. We never did lose power and Teddy finally calmed down. That leads me to what happened Wednesday night.

I took pork chops out for dinner but did not know how I was going to prepare them. I didn’t want to go to the store and knew I had stuff at home to use. I decided on pan fried chops with a fig sauce and a side of buttered herb rice. I began the prep work for dinner and Jesse played with the dogs. Seemed like a normal night until the skies got dark again. Benadryl was dispursed and we waited for the worst. But it was just a rain shower. No light show, or thunder just a good soaking rain.

I was ready to serve the dinner.The fig sauce came out great. I didn’t know I liked figs until last weekend. We were visiting Jesse’s family in Pensacola, FL and they have fig trees. His Mom made preserves but also gave us a couple of bags of fresh figs. I had never cooked with them before, but found a very easy recipe on a website and adapted it to what I had on hand. Recipe to follow.

Jesse asked me what I wanted to drink with dinner and went out to the frig in the garage to fetch something. He was never coming back. I poked my head out and asked if everything was o.k? No answer….I went deeper into the garage and asked again. “NO” he said. Both the side by side refrigerator and the deep freeze are off. Apparently the power to both was not working. He could not figure out what happened, but we quickly assessed that most of the deep stuff was not thawed, but the ice cream was toast. We pulled out the top stuff, attached a long extension cord and plugged them both into the kitchen outlets. We ate dinner once the power started back to both. I had turned off all the food before I went out to the garage, but I think the pork got a little overcooked. It tasted good, but I know it should have been served 10 minutes ago. Oh well. Jesse enjoyed it and really liked the use of figs in the sauce. You will come to find out that his food pallet is just beginning to develop. He was a 43 year old bachelor when we met. He had never been married and thought Outback was at the top of the fine dining list. He has come a long way since we first met. He is always up for trying new foods, even if he has never heard of them. (fodder for another blog)

So, we figured out we must have lost power the night before when the thunderboomers sounded like they were hitting the house(perhaps one did). The outlet needed to be tripped and the power came back on to both units. However, we did lose a lot of food. The lesson we learned from this…after a big storm, check all electrical outlets, especially those connected to refrigerators and freezers.

Pork Chops with Fig and Chipotles

The spicy sweetness of the chipotle pepper blends beautifully with the figs to give a little kick to the pan gravy which is also flavored with onions, garlic, and thyme. However, you may omit the chipotle pepper if you wish. Prepare all your ingredients in advance. This goes together quickly.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
4 (about 8 ounces each) boneless pork top loin chops, 1-1/2 inches thick
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle peppers, or to taste (see Notes)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup minced onion
2 large cloved garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup diced fresh figs

Preparation: Place each pork loin chop between sheets of plastic wrap and pound down to a 1-inch thickness. Season with salt, pepper, and ground chipotle. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Sear pork loin chops until golden brown on each side, turning only once. Remove to a platter and keep warm. Reduce heat, add onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute an additional 1 minute. Carefully pour in red wine and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits. Cook 1 minute, then add chicken broth, thyme, and figs. Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, stirring often and mashing the figs until the sauce is thickened. Return pork loin chops to the pan, along with any juices that have accumulated on the platter, and coat both sides with sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes. Serve pork loin chops with the fig sauce.

Yield: 4 servings Notes: Ground chipotle pepper is available in the spice aisle of most major grocery stores.

This is the site for the above recipe:

I peeled and cubed the figs.
I did not have chipotle chili powder so I used ancho chile powder.
The recipe called for boneless pork loin chops. I substituted chops on the bone(because that is what I took out of the freezer, so I adjusted the cooking time.

Please try this recipe and let me know what you think, even though it's not mine.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tomato Time

My name is Linda. I’m 48 years old and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. My love and passion is food. I am a foodie , long before it was cool! I love food. I love to cook it. I love to read about it, eat it, and watch TV about it. Now I’m blogging about it.

But my passion goes even deeper. I have been trying to complete a cookbook that I started years ago. I have updated the recipes, added new ones, deleted some, and now I need your help. I want people who love to cook (and even those that don’t) to try my recipes. I would love your feedback, both good and bad and even suggestions for taking the recipe to a new level.

Each week I will post a new recipe that I have written. Some of these have been entered into cooking contests (some have even won) and some have been published (in national magazines and local papers). I hope you will try the recipe and ask fellow cooking friends to try it, and comment back on the blog with your thoughts. I will then re-do the recipe and re-post. I will include pics of the cooking process and the final outcome.

I also want to share my favorite blogsites with you and have you share yours with me. And since we all live in various regions of the country, I would like to know what produce is currently available in your farmers markets and what you like to cook with it.

It’s tomato time in Alabama and they are everywhere. I plant 8-10 heirloom tomato plants each year. They go in the ground early April (we pray for frostfree nights) and begin to produce in mid-June. I usually lose 1-3 each year from disease or lack of water, or unknown reasons. This year I have 6 producing plants that are full of tomatoes, buds and flowers. I love it. I have cherry tomatoes, Aunt Gerdie Golds, red plums, Mr. Stripey, Mortgage Busters, black cherries and another red variety.

If you have not planted heirlooms before, you must pick them while they are almost ready to turn color and leave them on a sunny windowsill to ripen. If you leave them on the vines too long, our little garden friends will eat them. And we work too hard to have that happen. So, at any give time throughout the summer, I have a bowl of ripe tomatoes on my counter, a windowsill full of tomatoes turning, and plants ready to pop. Not to mention a tomato tart or too lingering in the frig.

So, I thought it would be appropriate to share my Tuscan Tomato bread pudding recipe with you.

Tuscan Tomato Bread Pudding

6 english muffins, halved and toasted
1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup onions, diced
2 cups tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon oregano, dried
2 tablespoons basil, fresh, chopped
4 eggs
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces mozzarella, cubed

Cut each toasted English muffin half into 6 pieces and arrange them on the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Set aside.

Roast the garlic. Cut off the upper 1/3 of the garlic head (leave paper skin on garlic head) Sprinkle the cut side of the garlic head with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap tightly in foil and bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. It should be soft and tender when it’s finished. Allow it to cool for a couple of minutes, and then squeeze each clove into a small bowl, set aside.

Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute’ for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are transulent. Do not let them turn brown. Stir or shake pan a few times. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add onion mixture and stir to combine. Layer this on top of the toasted English muffin pieces. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and cream. Pour mixture over the tomatoes and place cubed mozzarella tucked into the top. Let stand at least 10 minutes before baking.

Allow the bread to absorb most of the liquid. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake bread pudding until brown and puffed, about 35-45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

*If you can not find fresh basil, substitute ¼ teaspoon dried basil. **If fresh tomatoes are not available, substitute 2 cups of canned tomatoes, drained