I picked up a hefty heirloom tomato at the farmer's market last weekend. It looked like as though it was about to burst open. As a light lunch, I sliced it open and topped it with a dollop of homemade saffron aïoli, thinly shaved red onion, Point Reyes blue cheese crumbles, and a smattering of parsley and chives from the garden. Delicious with a strip of crispy bacon and half of a seven-minute egg sprinkled with piment d'Espelette and Maldon sea salt!
JOAN'S ON THIRD
8350 West 3rd Street bet. La Cienega and Fairfax Avenues
Slapping lettuce, tomato and bacon between two slices of white bread with a swipe of mayo doesn't sound like much of a sandwich but boy, oh, boy do I love a good BLT. It reminds me so much of my childhood when my mom used to make BLTs (or two-tiered club sandwiches, when she felt particularly ambitious) for my school field trips. She'd even cut them into little triangles and use festive cellophane-wrapped toothpicks to hold their structural integrity in place.
I like to keep it pure and simple with a single layer of each ingredient–no crazy whole-grain breads, turkey bacon, flavored mayonnaise/aïoli or exotic greens! BLTs, in my opinion, must be made with plain white bread, real bacon, Hellman's mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce–and only iceberg lettuce (for its crisp, neutral freshness)–and a very ripe beefsteak or heirloom tomato. If I'm feeling wild, I might concede to the addition of avocado slices but, honestly, you really can't improve on such a classic.
I went to a FitMix Endurance Pilates class at noon and was ready for lunch an hour later when it was over. I should've ordered a salad but couldn't help but be tempted by the BLT at Joan's On Third. Their BLT is an exemplary one, with its strips of thin crispy bacon, juicy tomato and perfectly toasted pain de mie. Truly scrumptious. I also ordered a cup of the celery soup on the side because, well, who can resist a little teacup of soup?
*If you're avoiding carbs as I sometimes do, you can request the B.T.A. (bacon, tomato, avocado) at Croft Alley as a Bibb lettuce wrap. It's light and delicious.
After washing and drying the cherry tomatoes, toss them with extra virgin olive oil, a chopped garlic clove, dried red chili flakes, a tiny bit of salt and black pepper, and a sprig of thyme. Spread them out on a foil-lined baking tray and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes or until they blister and ever-so-slightly char. Discard the thyme and fold the blistered cherry tomatoes into a pile of al dente pasta. Add a good sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Blistered cherry tomatoes have the power to gussy up a plain pile of spaghettini and make it look like it's worth $25.
To me, making a salad is like painting. It's a creation that's both composed and ad-hoc. There's layering involved. Balance. Thought. It's not hastily chopping up a bunch of stuff and dumping it into a bowl with no rhyme or reason. I've always believed that a great salad requires great care. How you cut the ingredients can completely change the nature of a salad. Here, the cucumbers are cut into matchsticks, the grape tomatoes are cut into round slices, and the red onion and avocado are sliced very thinly. There's no tossing involved, so this composition is purely guided by your eye and intuition.
2 cups of mesclun salad leaves
1/2 small kirby cucumber, cut into matchsticks
A few thin slices of red onion, cut into half-moons
1/4 avocado, thinly sliced
6 grape tomatoes, cut into small round slices
Cold leftover roast chicken, torn into shreds
Crumbled feta cheese
Citarella's tartar sauce, or another creamy dressing like ranch or blue cheese
Fresh dill, chives, tarragon, or chervil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
1. Start with a large white dinner plate. This is your canvas. Prime the canvas with a generous layer of mesclun salad leaves. Make sure the leaves are clean and completely dry.
2. For a crunch factor, sprinkle the cucumber matchsticks over the salad.
3. Tear the cold roast chicken into shreds by hand and evenly distribute--the quantity will rely on your appetite!
4. Separate the rings of the onion slices and lightly scatter to add a nice kick and heat.
5. Drape the avocado slices gently around the plate.
6. Strategically place the grape tomato slices where a punch of red is needed.
7. Add the crumbled feta and small spoonfuls of your creamy dressing, here and there, being mindful of the balance of white splashes to the composition.
8. Pick off bits of the fresh herbs and decorate the plate.
9. Finish with a pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes and a shower of black pepper.
10. Cut into your masterpiece, fork-and-knife style, and mix it all up!
Crudités to the rescue!
If you're like me, your love of noshing can lead you to what goes on the dinner plate. Many a-times I'll be too tired to assemble an actual salad, so I'll just put its elements onto a plate and call it a day. Some of my favorite ingredients are: sliced cucumbers, whole grape tomatoes, green beans, feta cheese chunks, and hard salami slices. (Citterio has a great line called Pronti: pre-sliced hard salami, which makes life even easier! Perfect for snacking and picnics.) It's a pretty healthy assortment of goodies. Sometimes I take it up another notch with triple cream brie and pâté. Radishes and cornichons should also be thrown into the mix.