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The Ultimate Open-Faced BLT with Sriracha Mayonnaise and Avocado

Makes 1 serving

A simple spin-off from the classic bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. Layering in three more flavors and textures is a wonderful approach.

•1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise

•1 to 2 teaspoons sriracha

•1 large slice of hearty artisan-style bread, toasted

•1 large slice of fresh, backyard tomato

•Baby arugula leaves

•2 to 3 slices of crispy bacon

•1 egg, fried sunny-side up, or “to taste”

•1 large slice of avocado (see note below)

•Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the mayonnaise with the sriracha and set aside.

Let the toast cool, then smear on a healthy dose of the sriracha mayonnaise. Now layer on (in the order listed) the tomato, some arugula leaves, the bacon, the egg, and finally, the avocado. Add salt and pepper to taste, and if desired, an extra dollop of the sriracha mayonnaise.

Note on the avocado slice: After halving an avocado and removing the pit, scoop out one of the halves from its skin. Slice down through the entire half, producing a slice with a hole in it. That way when you put this on top of the egg, the yolk will show!

Quick Aioli With Stone Ground Mustard

Makes a scant 1¼ cups

This is a great dipping sauce for cooked artichokes and so many other things, from fish and chips to crowning a platter of sliced tomatoes. It can also be used to flavor a vinaigrette; as a quick dressing for a corn and tomato salad; to fold into a pile of shredded green or red cabbage with flecks of chopped sweet onion; to dollop onto the golden surface of freshly grilled chicken breasts, pork chops, or fish; as a dip for raw vegetables; as a fry sauce; to season pasta salad, soups, and tomato-based sauces; to stand in for plain old mayonnaise on your sandwich creations; and finally, be sure and bring it out if you are serving grilled or roasted wild salmon. The flavor combo is heavenly!

•1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

•3 medium-sized cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

•1 cup good quality mayonnaise (I use Best Foods)

•1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

•1 tablespoon stone ground mustard (I use Inglehoffer Original Stone Ground Mustard; see note)

Place the lemon juice and garlic cloves in a blender jar. Now add the mayonnaise and blend, turning the motor on and off and scraping the sides of the blender jar often, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. With the motor running, add the olive oil a teaspoon at a time, giving the sauce a chance to absorb one addition of the oil before adding the next. You might have to stop the motor and give the sauce a brief stir each time.

Scrape the sauce into a small container then stir in the mustard. The sauce will keep for weeks in the refrigerator (just like commercially made mayonnaise).

PESTO VARIATION: At the point when you stir in the stone ground mustard, also stir in 2 tablespoons of pesto (either home made or commercially prepared). Makes a scant 1 1/3 cups.

ROASTED RED PEPPER AND TOMATO VARIATION: At the point when you stir in the stone ground mustard, also stir in ½ of a roasted and peeled red pepper (commercially prepared roasted peppers are OK), and 2 tablespoons of canned tomato paste. Adjust the character of the sauce at this point by adding additional mustard if necessary, and a little more fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar to taste.

NOTE ON STONE GROUND MUSTARD: The Inglehoffer Original Stone Ground Mustard is prepared by Beaverton Foods in Beaverton. It’s widely distributed, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding it where most mustards are sold. It has a rich mustardy-whole grain character that I love. If unavailable, use another brand that describes itself as being a classic whole grain mustard (which will mean it isn’t too sweet or seasoned in an unusual way).

Panzanella with Backyard Tomatoes, Bacon, and Jan’s Homemade Croutons

Makes 4 servings

Panzanella is basically bread salad. But in this case, I’m bringing together your tomatoes of the season and my extra-flavorful and toasty homemade croutons. Consider making extra batches of the croutons, because with a cache of homemade croutons in the freezer, you’ll find yourself reaching for them to jazz up dishes beyond simple tossed green salads and soups: Crumble them over cooked vegetables for a toasty finish; incorporate them into stuffings; and layer with cheese and eggs for a most extravagantly flavored strata.

•2 pounds sun-ripened tomatoes, cored and diced

•½ cup minced red onion

•2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

•½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

•2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

•1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

•1 teaspoon salt

•Several generous grinds black pepper

•Jan’s House Croutons (recipe follows)

•6 to 8 slices crisp smokey bacon, broken into pieces

•2 cups trimmed arugula

•Wedge of good-quality Parmesan for shaving

•Optional: A dollop of Quick Aioli with Stone Ground Mustard on each serving (see previous recipe)

After dicing the tomatoes, place them in a sieve and let them drain while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper. Add the croutons and toss well. You can let the mixture sit for just a moment, then add the bacon pieces, arugula and about ½ cup of shaved Parmesan, tossing briefly again to coat the leaves.

Divide the tomato mixture among 4 plates. For a tasty optional approach, spoon a dollop of Quick Aioli with Stone Ground Mustard on top of each serving and then sprinkle each with a few more shavings of the Parmesan and serve immediately.

Jan’s House Croutons

Makes 1 quart of croutons

These zesty-garlicky wonders are easy to make and complement a vast range of salads and soups. They freeze fabulously, so when you have the time, just make up a big batch and toss ‘em in the freezer for future hits.

•1 loaf of a good quality artisan bread, such as ciabata, olive, Italian, or French (here in Corvallis, I like to use Big River’s Asiago & Garlic bread)

•½ cup (1 cube) butter

•4 to 6 large cloves minced or pressed fresh garlic

•2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

•1 teaspoon soy sauce

•¼ teaspoon Tabasco or your favorite hot pepper sauce

•¼ teaspoon salt

Cut a portion of the bread into enough 1-inch (or slightly smaller) cubes to measure 1 quart. Place the cubes of bread in a large bowl.

Melt the butter with the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Tabasco and salt. Slowly drizzle the melted butter over the cubes of bread, tossing the cubes in the bowl so that they all get a dose of the seasoned butter. Spread the cubes out evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until richly golden. Remove from oven and cool. Store unused croutons in a plastic container for several days, or freeze for up to 3 or 4 months in re-sealable freezer bags.

Variations abound: Sprinkle on a bit of Parmesan cheese — outstanding! I’ve used different forms of bread and gotten terrific results, including sourdough English muffins, baguettes, asiago cheese bread, rye bread, and roasted garlic bread. The trick is to make sure that whatever bread you use has substantial texture. A light-textured bread doesn’t hold up under salad conditions; it gets too soggy too quickly.

Caesar Salad with Summer Tomatoes and Jan’s House Croutons

Makes 8 servings

My tomatoes form the first layer, over which the Caesar Salad mixture is piled. This keeps the salad greens from becoming diluted with tomato juices and everything comes together in a more tantalizing way.

If you want a dynamite Caesar salad remember to use only the very crisp and tender center portions (the heart) of the romaine lettuce. This means that for a salad serving more than 4 people, you’ll have to buy 2 or more heads. Reserve the dark green outer leaves for another night’s meal.

•About 5 large sun-ripened tomatoes

•4 large heads of romaine lettuce (or 4 “Hearts of Romaine”)

•Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

•Caesar Salad Dressing (recipe follows)

•Jan’s House Croutons (see previous recipe)

•1 cup freshly shaved (somewhere between coarsely shredded and grated) Parmesan cheese

Core and slice the tomatoes and divide the slices between 8 large salad plates. Overlap the tomatoes slightly to form an attractive pattern on the plates; set aside.

Wash the lettuce leaves, dry them thoroughly, then break into 2- to 3-inch long pieces. Place them in a bowl and cover with damp paper towels and return to the refrigerator to chill.

When ready to serve, add the lettuce leaves to a large salad bowl and sprinkle them generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss with most of the dressing. Add the Parmesan and fresh croutons (you’ll have to judge for yourself how many to add, but be generous!) and toss until all the lettuce and croutons are evenly coated, adding more dressing if necessary.

CAESAR SALAD DRESSING: Bring a fresh egg to room temperature for about 15 minutes, then place it in a small bowl. Pour boiling hot water over the egg and allow it to stand for 90 seconds in the hot water (this is called “coddling”). Drain the water off the egg, then crack it into a bowl and combine with ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of minced fresh garlic, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, several dashes of Tabasco. Whisk until well blended, then whisk 1 to 2 teaspoons of anchovy puree (or 1 smashed anchovy fillet) into the mixture. Slowly whisk in ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil. The dressing may be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated (whisk well before using).

Walla Walla Salsa Salsa

I created this recipe one summer when our famous Walla Walla sweet onion was in season. But any sweet will work. Every few years, I share it with readers because it’s one of my favorites. And it's a wonderful way to use up those backyard-ripened tomatoes.

•4 large or 7 medium Anaheim chiles, roasted and peeled (see note on roasting below)

•1 large Walla Walla sweet onion (or any sweet onion), diced

•2 (2.5 ounce) cans sliced olives, drained

•5 large tomatoes (or an equal amount of cherry tomatoes; or a little of both!)

•1 to 2 cups peeled and diced cucumber

•½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

•¼ cup white wine vinegar

•2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

•½ to 1 teaspoon salt

•Freshly ground black pepper

•1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

Remove stems, seeds and inner membrane from the roasted chiles, then chop. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the chopped chiles with the sweet onion, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well, then adjust seasonings, adding additional salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead. When ready to serve, stir in the pine nuts. Serve with tortilla chips. Yields about 7 cups of salsa.

TO ROAST ANAHEIM CHILES: Poke each chile once with a sharp knife to avoid explosions. Roast the chiles over coals or on a gas grill or under a broiler, turning as the skin blisters and blackens. Remove and let cool and scrape away the charred skin.

Sweet Onion, Bacon, and Tomato Salad With Pesto Vinaigrette

Makes 3 to 4 salads

Another BLT salad concept. This one celebrates the fresh and abundant basil we’ve got growing in our gardens as well as those lovely summer tomatoes and lovely sweet onions.

•1 pound (about 1 large or 2 medium-sized) fresh sweet onions

•Pesto Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

•1 large (about ¾ pound) firm-ripe tomato, cored and cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices

•3 or 4 crispy bacon slices, crumbled

•Fresh basil sprigs for garnish, if desired

•Salt and pepper

Cut the onions crosswise into thin slices and separate rings into a bowl. Pour the dressing over the onions and gently mix.

On 3 or 4 dinner or salad plates, arrange equal portions of the tomato slices. Top with equal portions of the onions and dressing. Garnish with the crumbled bacon and basil sprigs, if desired. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pesto Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons pesto (either homemade or commercially prepared).

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