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THE LOST ITALIAN: Classic BLT: Summer sandwich celebrates garden-grown tomatoes

The traditional bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich can be dressed up even further with avocado. By Nick Wagner/The Forum1 / 3
Bacon lovers will want to take advantage of the grease left by bacon on the griddle when toasting the bread for the BLT sandwich. By Nick Wagner/The Forum2 / 3
Summer provides a great opportunity to enjoy fresh vegetables you can grow in your own backyard to include in your BLT sandwich. By Nick Wagner/The Forum3 / 3

Thanks to the recent heat wave, fresh garden tomatoes are the new darlings in our farmers markets and gardens, and not a moment too soon in our opinion.

For the past week, Tony, Gio and I have been enjoying a lovely selection of beefsteak, golden, cherry and roma tomatoes, whether we use them in a recipe or just eat them on their own. One of our favorite ways to celebrate this savory fruit is in the classic B.L.T. sandwich which, for the uninitiated, means bacon, lettuce and tomato.

This might sound funny, but even a sandwich can have a season, and summer is the best, and arguably only, time to make a BLT. This simple sandwich has ignited a passion within us that only a garden-grown tomato and salty, savory bacon can satisfy.

Throw in some fresh garden greens, a couple of slices of Breadsmith’s Rustic Italian bread (lightly brushed with butter and cooked on the griddle in a tiny amount of bacon fat), and it’s easy to understand how these cravings can develop.

I bet we’ve had BLTs at least four or five times over the past week, and by midmorning, Tony and I find ourselves looking longingly at the griddle, waiting for the lunch hour to arrive so we can indulge in our favorite summer sandwich. In fact, I’ve even found myself thinking about BLTs upon waking – that’s how good they are.

To start, I set our griddle at 350 degrees and cook the bacon for about 5 minutes on one side, 2 to 3 minutes on the other, brushing the bacon grease into the drip tray a few times as it cooks. Once it’s reached your desired level of doneness, remove the bacon from the griddle and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Next comes the secret to these sandwiches: Griddling the bread in a little bit of bacon grease instead of toasting it in a toaster. I love toast, but this technique produces such a better sandwich. The drippings can also be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for several weeks for later use.

I brush each slice of bread with melted butter on one side, and place the bread butter-side down on the griddle, letting it cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. As it cooks, I brush the other side of each slice with butter. Once the slices have turned a gorgeous golden color, I flip the bread and cook the other side until just starting to brown.

Remove the bread and break each strip of bacon in half. Lay four strips on the side of bread that is more lightly toasted, followed by the tomato slices and then the lettuce. I don’t place the tomatoes right next to the bread, or it can become soggy. If you have some ripe avocado, now’s the time to use it, so slice it up and place it on top of the tomatoes.

Mayonnaise is the classic condiment for a BLT, but since I’m “allergic” to mayo, I prefer to use a fresh herb pesto or aioli instead. We have a nice selection of different sauce recipes on our blog for your cooking pleasure. But usually we’ll skip a dressing altogether and let the tomatoes speak for themselves.

Slice the sandwich in half and serve, then find yourself counting the minutes until it’s time for your next meal. I confess, there have been days lately where I’ve had BLTs for lunch AND dinner, and right now, my tummy tells me that it’s almost noon, so I’d better go start the griddle.

Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple own Sarello’s restaurant in Moorhead, Minn., and live in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at All previous recipes can be found at