Words cannot describe how much I love this sandwich…it’s one of my favorite sandwiches EVER! You may be thinking to yourself that it’s just a sandwich. But that’s where you’re wrong. It’s not just a sandwich…it’s a REALLY, REALLY GOOD SANDWICH: Ciabbata bread spread with a delicious basil mayonnaise and layered with ripe tomato slices, fresh mozzarella, smoky bacon, romaine lettuce, fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If you’re not drooling yet, you should be!
First things first: you must start with top-quality tomatoes. It would be an insult to the sandwich to use the tasteless tomatoes found in most grocery stores. This recipe is best when using perfect, garden-ripe tomatoes. And since we’re just at the beginning of October, you can still find good tomatoes at farm stands.
On to the basil mayo…it’s absolutely wonderful! I usually double or triple that part of the recipe so I’ll have extra for recipes later in the week (sandwiches, chicken, fish). If you don’t feel like messing with bacon, the sandwich is also great with slices of salami or other Italian deli meats. Or leave out the meat entirely and you’ve got a delicious vegetarian sandwich. If you can’t find fresh mozzarella, sliced provolone would be a good substitute.
The recipe calls for a loaf of ciabatta. As with any sandwich served on this type of bread, the crustier and chewier the bread, the harder it will be to eat the sandwich. Personally, I’m not a fan of sandwiches that have a delicious crusty bread for a foundation but with each bite, the contents of the sandwich come squishing out of every side possible. What good is the delicious, crusty bread when you’ve got sandwich innards all over your lap? I prefer a bread that is sturdier than regular sandwich bread but not as crusty/chewy as some of the artisan breads. I found a loaf of ciabbata in the Winco bakery (Winco label on it) that is perfect: chewy but not too chewy for a sandwich. I’ve used ciabatta rolls before, too.
As you can see from the photo, I took the picture before I cut the loaf into individual sandwiches. Serving size and amount of servings will depend on the size of the loaf you start with. I got 8 pieces out of my sandwich loaf.
-recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
This sandwich builds on the basic BLT with the addition of Italian flavors like mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar. Many supermarket bakeries carry ciabatta. An Italian loaf can be used instead, but be sure to discard the interior of the bread, as directed. Serves 4 to 6.
2 medium tomatoes , sliced thin
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 loaf ciabatta
1 1/3 cups fresh packed basil leaves
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic , minced
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
8 slices bacon , cooked until crisp, drained, and crumbled
4 leaves romaine lettuce
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese , sliced thin
Place tomato slices on several layers of paper towels and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let sit for 15 minutes, then press with additional paper towels to extract excess moisture. Mix oil and vinegar together in small bowl. Slice bread in half horizontally and use fingers to remove and discard all but 1/2 inch of interior crumb.
Puree 1 cup basil, mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, hot sauce, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides several times. Spread basil mayonnaise on both cut sides of bread. Sprinkle bacon on bottom half of bread and place romaine on top of bacon. Shingle tomatoes and mozzarella alternately over romaine and drizzle with oil and vinegar mixture. Place remaining 1/3 cup basil in single layer on top and replace top half of bread. Cut crosswise into 2-inch sandwiches. Serve.
Test Kitchen Discoveries:
• Make a basil-flavored spread by pureeing lots of fresh basil leaves with store-bought mayonnaise. A little lemon juice, garlic, and hot sauce round out the spread’s flavor.
• Sprinkle the sliced tomatoes with salt and let the slices sit on paper towels for a few minutes to draw off much of the tomatoes’ liquid. This step concentrates the flavor and ensures that the sandwich won’t become too soggy.
• Use a crisp-crusted, peasant-style loaf like ciabatta, which many supermarkets and bakeries carry.
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