Karen’s 4th of July macaroni salad served BLT style with fresh summer tomatoes.

Yes, it’s time to really enjoy those summer veggies so make the most out of your farmers market fruit and vegetable finds this summer, especially that big red juicy fruit. Wait; is the tomato a fruit or a vegetable? No, I was right the first time; it is a fruit — the misunderstood fruit is a luscious tomato! But if you just don’t like tomatoes, please move on and enjoy the rainbow of fruits and vegetables during our long hot Texas summer. You have a delicious bounty of choices!

A few of my favorite vegetables are okra, squash, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers but for some reason I have never really liked raw tomatoes. However, I love BLT sandwiches. In fact, I always get Buc-ee’s BLT when I’m on the road. It’s the best BLT I’ve ever had and coming in second is the DLT (duck, lettuce and tomato) I had in South Carolina at The Tattooed Moose. And, of course the famous fried green tomato should also be at the top of my list. But believe me when I tell you a fried green tomato really does make an awesome BLT. As you know, we all have our favorite vegetables, our not so favorite, and our never-ever, “I will pass on that one” veggie. I will always pass on a big juicy raw red tomato unless it is tucked into lightly toasted sourdough or rustic bread along with bacon, cold crisp lettuce and any other of my creative ingredients I slide between those two pieces of toast.

Do you grow your own? More and more I see on social media my friends and neighbors trying their hand at backyard gardening. Even though all I grow is herbs, I came across this great list to share for growing fruits and vegetables in South Texas. You can find it at thespruceeats.com/texas-seasonal-fruits-and-vegetables-2217166, along with a calendar to print out at thespruceeats.com/what-s-in-season-calendar-1388661.

But fair warning — the summer tomatoes you are growing may start to split after a Houston drought followed right after a heavy rain in a short period of time. The poor tomato gets cracks and splits as the inside grows faster that the outside (skin) and that sad tomato skin can’t catch up. Oh, the growing pains of the tomato in Houston. So, if your tomatoes split, I suggest you eat, cook, bake or can them fast. Or grow them in the fall where they mature and grow at a time when 100-degree temperatures have passed. And with that” Please Join Our Table” as we share a Texas picnic table of BLTs! And sometimes no bacon at all.

Not Your Regular Sunny Side Up BLT

My good friend Lata Rakhe made this without tomatoes and bacon. I guess I could have called it the naked BLT, but I edited her recipe so you can have it your way anyway … Because in the summer when we have home grown big juicy tomatoes, we have to add them so be sure to add a few slices to yours. Makes 1 sandwich.

INGREDIENTS

1 egg, cooked sunny side up

1 toasted Brioche bun

1 pinch of yellow turmeric

1/4 teaspoon roasted cumin (or use 1/8 teaspoon powdered)

1 dash red chili powder

1 dash black pepper

1/4 red onion, grilled

1-2 slices fresh avocado

Rough chopped cilantro

Optional: 1-2 slices fresh tomato and 4 slices of crisp bacon or mock bacon

DIRECTIONS: Cook bacon or mock bacon and set aside. Fry egg, season with just a drop of yellow turmeric, top with roasted cumin, hint of red chili powder and black pepper. Toast bread. Assemble the BLT. Place egg, grilled red onions and fresh avocado on a toasted Brioche bun. Top with cilantro, lime juice and sea salt. Optional: place bacon and tomato on top of the egg and then add the avocado.

My Cretan-Greek BLT

What a fun sandwich to make and serve, so full of flavor it is like a Greek salad between two pieces of toast. And to add to the flavor, a big spoon of Feta red pepper spread! Makes 3 large sandwiches.

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons crumbled Greek feta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin Greek olive oil

2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano

2 tablespoons roasted red pepper (from a jar, drained and chopped or mashed)

2 tablespoons Duke’s mayo

1 clove garlic

6 large slices rustic sourdough bread or crusty whole wheat

1 1/2 tablespoons muffuletta olive salad mix (optional)

1-1 1/2 cups baby arugula lettuce, divided into 6 portions or 6 iceberg or romaine lettuce leaves, washed and dry

2 large ripe heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes, cored and sliced into thin rounds

1 medium English cucumber, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices

1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin rings

1 small red onion, sliced into thin rounds

12 slices bacon, cooked crisp

DIRECTIONS: In a blender combine the feta, oregano, olive oil, roasted red pepper, garlic clove and mayo. Blend until almost smooth; set aside in the fridge. Note, it may be made earlier in the day. When ready to assemble the BLTs, cook the bacon and drain it. Lightly toast the bread. Spread the feta mixture on the 6 slices of bread. Place lettuce on each of the bread slices, add and spread the muffuletta olive salad mix. Place the cucumber strips, a few tomato slices, the pepper slices and onions over the lettuce of three of the toasted breads. Finish each sandwich with 4 slices of bacon and cover with the remaining slice of toast that also had the feta mixture and lettuce on it. Cut in half and insert a large toothpick in each half and serve.

My 4th of July Macaroni Salad … BLT Style

Serves 6-8 people

INGREDIENTS

1 pound elbow macaroni or any short pasta, regular or gluten free

8-10 strips bacon, cooked crisp and chopped

3-4 large tomatoes, seeded and diced or 2 cups sun dried tomatoes for a sweeter taste

1 cup finely chopped lettuce (I use romaine.)

1 cup finely chopped Napa cabbage

1/4 cup celery, finely chopped

1/3 cup green onion, chopped (use white and green sections)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

DRESSING:

1/2 cup Duke’s mayonnaise

1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt

1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil, rough chopped, no stems

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, rough chopped, no stems

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

DIRECTIONS: Cook pasta according to package directions and reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water. Place pasta in a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add chopped bacon, tomato, lettuce, celery, green onion and lemon juice to cooled pasta and toss to combine.

DIRECTIONS FOR THE DRESSING: Place all dressing ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy. Pour dressing over pasta salad and stir to coat. Stir in reserved 1/3 cup pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate salad at least 1 hour until cold. Top with shredded cheese of choice, if desired. This will keep in refrigerator for 3 days.

Bonus: I like to top the salad with chopped avocados.

P.S. Happy Birthday to my husband. He is the 7th child of 9 born on the 7th day of July and maybe at 7 in the morning. He is a Star Trek fan so I will wish my “SEVEN OF NINE” a Happy Milestone Birthday!

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.

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