Make A BLT for the Best End-Of-Summer Flavor

I love a good sandwich and BLT’s are one of my faves. Go with the classic combo: bacon, lettuce and ripe in season tomatoes with white bread and mayo (Duke’s, if you please) for the win. But, if you are feeling adventurous, mix it all up a bit – don’t be afraid to experiment and think outside the BLT box.

I also love cooking with friends. And, wherever I am, I love featuring local ingredients. When my good friend Chad Blackwelder at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture asked me if I’d like to be his first guest on the new cooking class format of his GotToBeNC Stove Side Chats Instagram interview program, of course my answer was yes!

The Buisiness of a BLT

I filmed this BLT segment with Chad the last week in July of 2021. This video originally went live the first week in August. As I write this, it’s the first week in September. Tomatoes are still in season; so before the season passes, treat yourself to as many more BLT ‘s as you can.

When the season for fresh picked local tomatoes passes, try out fun variations on the BLT theme – and remember that local farmers farm all year long and many area farmers markets are open throughout the year.

And, because any sandwich is more of a meal when you add chips, our first stop in Raleigh before we hit the Farmers’ Market was at the 1in6 Snacks store for Carolina Kettle Chips.

box of chips

This is a wonderful GotToBeNc North Carolina brand that comes in 10 different flavors with an equally delicious story behind it. In addition to chips they also make cookies and popcorn.

After a quick tour and run down of all the flavors and varieties we opted to buy a mixed box of 20 2 oz. bags and split the goods between us. If you are not in the Raleigh area, but live in North Carolina, chances are good there is a place near you that sells Carolina Kettle Chips near you. If not, or f you are from out of state or out f the country, know that you can order by phone or online and they are happy to ship chips ( or popcorn your way). Scroll to the end of this post for all the ordering info.

Chips down and done, we moved onto the State Farmers’ Market in Raleigh to talk tomatoes, peaches and more.

Shopping Local. Only the best for this BLT

Before we began to film, Chad and I walked our way through the market looking for a bit of inspiration, as he explains in the video you’ll find later on i this post.

It certainly wasn’t hard to find motivation among all the available choices as we each settled on on just what type of BLT we might make. This is actually the very best way to shop any farmers market. Don’t necessarily go with a list, go instead with an idea; then let it evolve as you see what local farmers have to offer.

tomatoes

We started with tomatoes then moved to peaches and lettuce, considered cucumbers and cheese. I decided to go meatless, with my version of the classic sandwich combo , as soon as we happened upon a fabulous selection of mushrooms that I could marinate, fry and use in place a bacon.

Before we started the sandwich process, I found lots of other things to stop and consider. I was most intrigued by these Travelers Tomatoes. I’d only seen them once before years ago when Chef Clark Barlowe had some at his Charlotte restaurant, and I’d never forgotten them.

These are not tomatoes for slicing and sandwiching, but I just had to share them with you here. Instead of sliced, you simply pull apart this tomato section by section to enjoy. After you do, the tomato appears to remain “uncut” until you want to snack on another little section. I am easily fascinated, I must admit; and bought several of these to bring back home to enjoy.

BLT and peaches, cukes & local cheese, too!

As you will see in the video, I opted to use unripe green tomatoes which I later breaded with local duck eggs and Atkinson Mills “Sweet Betsy” Breader ( both available from Mae Farm Meats at the market) for fried green tomatoes as the focal point of my sandwich. Carolina Mushroom Farm oyster and shiitake mushroom caps became my “mushroom bacon” and then I used sliced summer cukes in place of leafy lettuce. In hindsite, next time I might grate the cukes instead, seasoning them with salt and pepper and then squeezing them out slightly before piling them on my sammie.

Chad, on the other hand, dove all in to the bacon. Inspired by a peach and tomato salad he had recently enjoyed, he opted to add, sliced firm, but ripe, peaches along with his heirloom variety tomatoes. It was a winning flavor combination.

Chad took the more classic route with Duke’s Mayo; while I opted for Chapel Hill Creamery Farmer’s Cheese – which made for a thick, rich, almost buttery sandwich spread.

Chad used some gorgeous local lettuce, while I opted for the summer harvest of Kirby cukes.

All of our ingredients were stacked between slices of fresh baked bread from Yellow Dog Bread Shop in Raleigh. This is a beautiful little bakery for fresh baked breads, pastries and coffee too, located at 219 E. Franklin Street.

Tips and Tricks Sandwiched in between all the local ingredients

A fun part of each cooking class I teach or video I present, comes in sharing little tricks and tips to make it all easier. Same holds true for this fun how to video. In addition to sharing a few tricks of my own, I always pick up great cooking tips from Chad and other local chefs like him.

Lots of tips in this video. From how to slice peaches and mushrooms to flavoring store-bought mayo with the minced flowers of local herbs. You’ll also learn how to bread and fry green tomatoes and how to fry mushrooms to crispier finish to mimic the taste and texture of bacon.

The key ingredient in terms of equipment? A heavy duty pan for frying – think cast iron – and a baking sheet and a wire cake rack.

No Fear of Frying

Whenever you fry anything, the key to keeping things crispy is a wire rack. Use the rack instead of placing the cooked food on layers of paper towels to drain. Air is your friend here. Any additional fat drips from the food, through the rack on onto the baking sheet. The air surrounding the food you fried keeps the texture crispy.

The rack is equally important as you bread and fry your green tomatoes, or anything else for that matter. You’ll find my master recipe for fried green tomatoes and some delicious variation on the theme here.

In a nutshell, as you bread your tomatoes and dip them in the egg wash the rack, and the air that surrounds the breaded food, work together to give the coating a chance to “marry”. If you go from breading directly to your hot oil, the breading will all come off in the frying process.

For practically perfect results, give your breaded and coated ingredients a 5 min. time out before you proceed with any recipe. Take my advice here, you’ll be glad you did.

The Umami of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are great option to add to any dish. Consider them when you are looking for a low calorie source of protein and antioxidants. They are like little sponges, quickly picking up any flavors you might want to add. That’s why they marinade so well. In this case I wanted to use them in place of the bacon in my sammie, to make it meatless; but I didn’t want to give up on any flavor.

Prior to our day at the market, Chad made a mix he calls a “Umami Bomb” with a great little Kentucky-made teriyaki sauce from another wonderful company called Bourbon Barrel Foods. They also make GMO free soy sauce and a host of other Kentucky bourbon-based foods and sauces.

Umami is often referred to as the fifth taste in food, along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami brings a rich and savory profile to any dish. the mushrooms, along with the teriyaki based marinade Chad created for the occasion, helped to make this sandwich a standout.

That’s all the background, now sit back and enjoy the video. You’ll find the link here, if you don’t see it below. Thanks again to Chad and the NCDA for asking me to be a part. And for sharing so mnay great photos of our culinary adventure.

Thanks too, to all the farmers at the State Farmers Market and across the state as well. Love what you do!

Stove Side Chat: How to Make a BLT at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh

Stove Side Chat’s New Fall Format

Since we filmed this segment, Chad has filmed several other Stove Side Chat cooking segments with chefs from across the state. Episodes post to You Tube the first Wednesday of each month. The most recently released was with Chef Tiesha Whitaker, of Buttermilk Boutique in Clayton, NC, the 2021 NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year. Chad and Tie made shared a little local Zabaione love. You can watch that episode here.

In October, look for a segment with Chad and Chef Kevin Ruiz from the Rockford Restaurant in Raleigh NC, where the two are talking about State Fair Food and sharing some recipes of their own.

Then, in November, stay tuned. Chad goes to Asheville to cook with Chef William Dissen of the Market Place Restaurant; and of the Haymaker in Charlotte and Billy D’s Fried Chicken in Asheboro at the NC Zoo.

Joining William and Chad, is chef Saif Rahman, the 2021 NCRLA Chef of the Year from Vidrio restaurant in Raleigh, NC. The two each prepared their own take on a dish featuring local quail from The Wild Way Farm.

Did I Leave You Wanting More? #TellThemHeidiSentYou

I cook with locally grown mushrooms a lot in Charlotte – mostly from Urban Gourmet Mushrooms ( More recipes here) and was delighted to find great mushrooms at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh as well.

Need Chips? Order local online from 1in6snacks Carolina Kettle Chips, here.

Smile and say ( eat local) cheese. Read more about local NC cheeses, including those produced by Chapel Hill Creamery, here. While the farmers cheese I used from Chapel Hill Creamery is only available in the Triangle area, their infamous Carolina Moon brie-style cheese and all of their other aged cheeses are available across the state. Visit the dairy’s website and get where to buy info them here.

Atkinson Milling Company has been making quality cornmeal products at their mill in Johnston County, North Carolina since 1757 -that’s before the American Revolution! You’ll find all of their products in markets and farm stores across the state, but just in case, you can also order online here.

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