The BLT has always had a natural affinity for summer. For twelve short weeks, when the local tomato harvest is flooding farmers markets and home gardens are overflowing, this savory, juicy, crunchy trifecta rules. Unless of course, you don’t eat bacon.
Although you may not yet be a fan of bacon analogs like Lightlife’s recently rebranded Tempeh Smoky Bacon (formerly known as Fakin’ Bacon) or Smart Bacon, they manage to recreate the glory of the classic combo without sacrificing original bacon’s crispy, salty, umami bomb. Each product has its admirers: Fakin’ Bacon, made from marinated tempeh (an ancient, cultured soy product that has the same character and acquired taste as an aged blue cheese), is low carb, high protein, and gluten free; Smart Bacon, a flavored soy/wheat gluten combo, is lower in calories than its counterpart, has very little protein and virtually no carbs. In my opinion, the tempeh product wins hands down every time.
Whichever you choose, both crisp up in hot fat to achieve the rich, savory sensation that is associated with cured bacon. Don’t be tempted to skimp on the frying fat—one of the reasons people like real bacon so much is because it’s salty and greasy. Duh. Like any fried food, drain the strips on paper towels to remove excess oil.
Since this is essentially a glorified tomato sandwich, when in season choose a beefsteak style, make sure they are dead ripe, and always (always) try to buy local. Fortunately, with the advent of Campari tomatoes and generic tomatoes-on-the-vine we can now enjoy the TLT all year round.
The third leg of this stool is the humble lettuce. Don’t skimp. Make it a salad on a sandwich and pile on for the proper crunch factor. I always have romaine hearts on hand so that’s what I use, but softer lettuces like butter and oak leaf would be divine.
Finally, egg-free mayonnaise is a convincing no-cholesterol spread that also conveniently eliminates concerns about spoilage (not to be confused with “light” mayo, which only connotes less fat and fewer calories). A very good one, in many varieties and widely available in the refrigerator case, is Follow Your Heart’s Vegenaise.
For the correct balance, build your sandwich using the Golden Ratio as your guide, with roughly twice as much tomato as bacon (especially when tomatoes are in season). Remember, this is a tomato sandwich seasoned with bacon, and the tomato is king.
Tempeh Smoky Bacon or Smart Bacon, 2-3 slices per sandwich
Lettuce, dark green or romaine
2-3 T. extra virgin olive oil for frying
Soy mayonnaise, such as Vegenaise
Salt and pepper
Whole-grain, white, or rye toast, 2 slices
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet and fry Smart or Tempeh Bacon until browned and crisp, turning once. Add more oil if necessary after turning and watch carefully to prevent burning. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool and crisp a bit while preparing other ingredients.
- Meanwhile, prepare toast, allow to cool a little, and spread both pieces generously with mayo.
- Break bacon strips into two or three pieces and build sandwich with plenty of lettuce and tomato. Season tomato directly with salt and pepper. Cut in half or quarters and serve, preferably with a pickle and chips for the complete experience.
- Add avocado, sliced or mashed, and red onions, thinly sliced.
- Substitute ketchup for mayonnaise to appeal to picky kids.
Tip: Fry up a whole package of bacon and store extra in the fridge for salads, sandwiches, and breakfast scrambles. Reheat in the toaster oven if desired.