Better Than BLTs

If you’ve been following the news the past couple of days, you’ve probably heard about how the frigid winter in the Sunshine State is bad news for tomato lovers.

During the lengthy cold spell in January, tomato growers in Florida lost 70 percent of their crop. And temps aren’t forecast to be so good the next few days, either.

Since that state is the main U.S. source of fresh winter tomatoes, people across the country are starting to see higher prices for salads or California burgers in restaurants, particularly at the smaller venues. In fact, some businesses are posting signs saying that tomatoes won’t be provided unless customers specifically ask for them.

I’m not sure how it will affect the price of canned tomato products, but you can be sure the price won’t be going down or that supermarket managers will be thinking twice about specials.

While not a big buyer of fresh tomatoes, I occasionally pick up a few to put on a salad or two. One of my favorite ways to eat fresh tomatoes (besides alone with a little salt and pepper) is on a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich. If you happen to get a hankering for a BLT, give the following recipe a try. It serves four and looks pretty tasty.

Better Than BLTs
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup minced fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 slices sturdy rustic bread
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ pound pancetta, coarsely diced
8 ounces baby arugula or baby lettuce
4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
½ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
Stir the mayonnaise, basil and garlic together in a small bowl until well combined; set aside.
Heat the broiler. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet; brush lightly with olive oil on both sides. Broil, turning once, to toast; set aside.
Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta; cook, stirring often, until the pancetta is crisp and browned, about 3 minutes each side. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
Place 4 slices of the toasted bread on each of 4 plates. Spread each with the mayonnaise mixture. Divide the arugula among the 4 slices. Layer tomatoes and mozzarella on the bread. Top each sandwich with remaining slices of the bread.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 669 calories, 65 percent of calories from fat, 48 grams fat (15 grams saturated), 75 milligrams cholesterol, 34 grams carbohydrates, 24 grams protein, 1,000 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber.