BLT: The Perfect Summer Sandwich

At the height of growing season, one meal rises above the rest.

By Diana Pittet


BLT the perfect summer sandwichIt's high noon during the dog days of summer, and all morning you've been in the garden. Now you're too depleted to contemplate making lunch. Still, you must eat. Nothing could be more simple and satisfying than a sandwich when you're seeking quick relief from heat and hunger, and few things fit the bill better than the classic American BLT.

"A BLT is the perfect combination of all the ingredients," extols William Marshall, a deli manager at Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a food retailer renowned for specialty food, customer service, and its bacon. "It's sweet and salty. It's hot and cold. You've got the mayo, so it's creamy. And it doesn't involve a lot of cooking."

An edible bundle of complementary opposites, a BLT, or bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, has everything going for it. Just a few ingredients join company between slices of bread and create something greater than its parts. A BLT's simplicity soothes even when lunch seems an impossible task.

What a BLT doesn't have is much time. While good bacon and bread, and even lettuce, are available year-round, decent tomatoes are here for but a few months. Summer is the time to slap together a BLT, when you can enjoy the incomparable delight of in-season tomatoes. They're best picked straight from your garden, but a farmers' market works, too.

The market should have everything else necessary to build a BLT: crisp lettuce, handmade bacon, toothsome white bread, and fresh eggs for whipping up tangy mayonnaise. While it's tempting to give in to convenience and schmear commercial mayo onto your sandwich, honor the integrity of the other ingredients by making your own. Use the extra as a silky dip for veggies, when you can bear no more than this for dinner on a hot, sticky night. Or just make yourself another BLT.

BLAT: Do as the Californians Do
In California, the classic is a BLAT, or bacon, lettuce, avocado, and tomato sandwich. Try it their way with just-ripe avocado slices added on to the stack.

VBLT: A Vegetarian BLT
Bacon is not for everyone, but the spirit of a BLT should be. To capture the salty crispness of the absent cured pork, try one or more of the following meatless suggestions:

  • Chopped pitted olives
  • Slices of shiitake mushrooms crisped in butter over high heat in a skillet
  • Diced preserved lemons
  • Salt-cured capers
  • Pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika) stirred into finished mayonnaise
  • Fried green tomatoes