A Better BLT

Okay, maybe that’s an oxymoron! I mean, can a BLT really get ANY better that the original bacon, lettuce, tomato on white bread with mayo variety?

If you build it, I will come eat it!

I say, perhaps it can…at least for me.

It was literally only a couple of years ago that I finally got over my aversion to mayonnaise long enough to have a BLT with a teensy bit of that white stuff on it, and I actually enjoyed it. And that’s still the way I usually have it…tried and true. Until now.

You see, during a last minute short trip this past weekend to visit my mom, I bought some truly amazing raisin bread in a place called the Dutch Oven Bakery in Falkville, Alabama, and it was a game changer.

First a bit about this bread…this is a lovely loaf of perfectly composed and crumbed goodness. Seriously, this stuff might be the push I need to try my hand at making my own bread! It had a perfect tooth and density to it, just like a loaf of homemade white bread. Not sweet—only a slight essence of sweetness with a bare hint of cinnamon in the background and very few raisins, just enough to impart a richness, almost like using a whole grain. It was the best raisin bread I’ve ever had. And, it got me thinking about what great sandwiches it would make.

And I don’t mean sweet sandwiches, I mean that amazing thing that happens when sweet and a savory come together and hold hands. Like pork and figs, blackberries and trout, currants and sausage, peas and carrots….no, wait, that’s something else.

My first try of a classic sandwich made on raisin bread instead of white was a pimento cheese sandwich featuring my mom’s famous homemade pimento cheese (more on that at another time). Really, really good.

And then last night, I concocted the pièce de résistance…a BLT on raisin bread. But none of that traditional mayo on this baby, no way. First I used fresh basil from a pot on my deck and made my homemade pesto which you can see here, using it in place of the mayo, bringing in an herbaceous quality to play off the raisins and cinnamon. Then, thumbing my nose at tradition again, I substituted arugula for the lettuce. I had some Pine Street Market Applewood Smoked Bacon (I’m really falling in love with this place) from those same fantastic folks that made the fennel and pinot noir sausage in my last post. This is a thick, handcrafted bacon that is just out of this world, and was perfect for my sandwich. And last but not least, I used tomatoes grown by our dear friend Lynn, aka the “Tomato Fairy,” who generously shares her glut of beautiful summer heirloom tomatoes with those of us who have unfortunate growing (shade) situations. Oh my, this was so good there are just no words to describe it.

But I’ll try. Toasted, lightly crumbed raisin bread, spread with fresh pesto using basil, walnuts, garlic and a bit of parmesan—perfectly marrying the herb and nutty flavors with the sweet perfume of cinnamon and the hint of raisin. Then the addition of a thin layer of baby arugula right next to the pesto for a peppery, slightly bitter component. Top that arugula with slices of ripe, fresh picked, sweet tomato, dripping its luscious red juice and flavoring the sandwich through and through, providing the needed balance of acidity. Then a layer of thick and crispy cooked bacon (2-3 slices will do nicely), slightly salty and full of the smoky essence of applewood that just can’t be duplicated any other way. And last, top the whole shebang with another slice of raisin toast slathered with some more pesto to seal the deal. Grab hold of the whole, squeeze slightly to meld the harmony of all those flavors into one, and enjoy the perfect…ecstatic, bite. Umami. Mmmmmm.

It’s not a good sandwich if it isn’t messy. I could eat this every day!

Heaven on Earth must surely involve a BLT in the summertime!

Now I’m wondering why I haven’t used raisin bread for sandwiches before, other than a PB&J? My mind races with the possibilities…prosciutto, goat cheese, jam and arugula, or chicken, avocado, blue cheese and bacon…and of course my curried chicken salad or even an egg salad? The options seem endless.

Of course, if you don’t like raisins or raisin bread, you could use the same combo on white or wheat bread with pesto for an outstanding variation on the classic BLT. But right now, I have more bacon already cooked, and tomato, pesto, arugula and the last of the raisin bread awaiting me in the kitchen…and I think lunch is calling me!

Add some roasted new potatoes from the CSA alongside for a complete dinner, and I’m a happy camper!

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64 thoughts on “A Better BLT

    • Thanks for those lovely comments, Norma! I imagine there are a lot of combos, vegetarian included, that would be great with pesto and raisin bread, too. Cucumber, tomato, arugula and goat feta or goat cheese might be great. Now I just have to learn how to make my own raisin bread as good as this Amish bakery in AL!

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    • Thanks Tanya, where are you headed? Is it time for your trip to England to work on the new house? I’m behind on my reading from being gone over the weekend, so need to hop over to your site and catch up! I have to confess, I think I could eat pesto on just about anything! 🙂

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        • Wow, no doubt…but you aren’t getting rid of your house in Spain, right? Still, I know you will be gone a while as renovation takes time, always longer than you think as you know already…and surely isn’t for the faint of heart! Happy cookout…I’m sure I’ll read about it in a few days…and bon voyage!

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  1. I totally agree about BLTs and Summer. They are best with tomatoes from your own garden, no doubt about it. I’ve never used rasin bread, though, for anything other than as toast with a little butter. It’s always been more treat than bread. I can see I need to change my perspective. I’m missing out here!

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    • Hi John! I wish I had my own tomatoes to use, but thank goodness for kind hearted friends and my CSA! I, too, hadn’t used raisin bread for anything savory…in fact it was on a whim that I bought this loaf in the first place! I think the style of raisin bread is important here…the kind that’s swirled with cinnamon would probably be too much cinnamon for this to work well and would overpower the other ingredients…likewise if it had too many raisins. It would need to be a lightly flavored loaf. I’m going to be on the hunt for a recipe now, I think, though as we are heading towards 100 degrees again today, I won’t be turning on my oven anytime soon! 🙂

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    • Hi Carol, and thank you! I don’t think I could stand straight mayo on raisin bread…just not my thing, but more power to you if it’s yours. I have to take my mayo well mixed into other things, or in very tiny amounts straight. 😉

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  2. That really does look like a fabulous BLT. I love the look of this bread and I think a little sweetness of the fruit with the saltiness of the bacon would work very well. I love how you made your own pesto using your very own basil! And the tomatoes from the tomato fairy would be so special xx

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    • The tomatoes from the tomato fairy were special indeed, and I am sad to see them almost gone, Charlie Louie. I love pesto on just about anything, so using it on the sandwich was a no brainer, but it was even better on the raisin bread than I thought it would be, and the bacon did indeed provide the right contrast to the sweet. I could eat this sandwich every day!

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  3. This is the second BLT I’ve seen in my blog surfing tonight… haha, I think the internet is trying to tell me something… too bad I’ve no bacon in the house (or tomatoes or lettuce actually right now 😦 ). Looks beautiful Betsy!

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    • Thanks Charles! Well, I think the internet is telling you something for sure…that you need to take advantage of the fresh tomatoes, get some bacon and lettuce or arugula, and have a summer BLT! You can’t beat them. I had this post almost written when I saw the email for Karen at Backroads Journal about her perfect sandwich post. I knew without reading it that it had to be a BLT, LOL! I commented about great minds. I don’t know if that’s the other one you saw, but hers looked terrific, too!

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    • Afraid to try it? Oh, no! It would be extreme I guess if you had a strongly flavored raisin bread, but it really was divine with this bread and made this way. I’ll bet you have especially good tomatoes to work with, too!

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  4. Oh yeah! I would eat this BLT. I normally eat my BLTs with yellow mustard rather than mayo and sometimes include thinly sliced dill pickles in them (I am an unrepentant mayo hater). But I like arugula better than lettuce, love pesto and will eat anything on raisin bread (Well, not mayo, and maybe not anchovies, sardines or hard-cooked eggs).

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    • That’s so funny, Sharyn because I remember eating BLT’s with yellow mustard, too for a long time! I knew you’d like the idea of not using mayo on these. I hope you’ll try your next BLT on raisin bread with pesto…and let me know what you think!

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  5. I really loved the way you described the bread 🙂 you made me crave some but then came the amazing ulterations you did to the sandwich and now I am really hungry!
    I love homemade pesto and really enjoy arugula in sandwiches I can only imagine how good this sandwich must be

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    • Hi Sawsan, and thank you for your very kind compliments! I wish I had enough basil to make pesto all the time…or at least in the warm months while it grows here. I forget how much I love it on sandwiches, with pasta, etc., until I make it myself! But it’s really good on raisin bread, I must say, and with the arugula, bacon and tomato…definitely a sandwich I will be making again, as soon as I procure more bacon! 🙂

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    • I think we may have BLT’s again tonight, Barb, but alas I have no more of that great bread. I’ll take your deal about making bread, but it’s so hot here I will wait until Fall to do it most likely! The thought of having my oven on for that long of a time makes me want to run and hide. 🙂

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  6. Oh how I love a good BLT! And on raisin bread! Yum! Funny you should post about this as I’m currently hooked on summer tomato and avocado sandwiches on toasted bread. Lol! It’s seems that’s been my lunch everyday for a week now. 🙂 think I’m now going to move onto your BLT on raisin bread!

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    • Tomato and avocado is a perfect combo. Now you’re making me smile because we’ve been hooked on tomato and avocado slices stacked and drizzled with a buttermilk based dressing…soooo good! Try the pesto and raisin bread combo some time, I think you’ll like it! Let me know what you think if you do. Thanks, Karista…have a great week!

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  7. I’m so far behind you, Betsy.. I never once considered this sort of combination for a sandwich (no wonder my kids hated my sandwiches for school, lol!) My goodness what a paragraph of excellent writing you did to describe this lovely bit of heaven! I love a BLT straight but your switch up with pesto and cinnamon raisin bread.. arugula.. wow.. just wow!!

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  8. You said you were making a different BLT and you did…nice flavor combination. I’ve been making pesto and freezing it in little batches for later in the year. I’ll be able to try your sandwich later if I can find as mild a raisin bread as what you used. Most of the breads at the market are loaded with cinnamon and raisins.

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    • Hi Karen, yes, this one is different although all BLT’s are great in my book! You definitely need a mild raisin bread and a homemade one from a bakery or other would work best. The swirled kind would be too much cinnamon and sugar to be balanced. I hope you’ll give it a try if you can find the right bread, and if not, the pesto is lovely with a traditional BLT, by itself or mixed with a little mayo! 😉

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        • You may be on to something there, Karen. I would say that this bread probably had the equivalent of 2-3 raisins finely chopped per two slices, and just the smallest pinch of cinnamon. Now that you’ve mentioned this, I may have to try it with my next batch of pesto…it sounds almost like a new tapenade! Let me know if you try it and thanks for the suggestion!

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  9. Yeah, this definitely takes the BLT to a whole new level Betsy! I totally agree! Wow…you make that bread sound AWESOME and I do think you have conquered that whole savory sweet thing with the BLT on raisin bread. Very ingenious! 🙂

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