52 Foods Week Thirty One: Lemon Cucumber

As often happens when strolling the Saturday Farmers’ Market, Jen and I came across a heretofore unfamiliar fruit: the Lemon Cucumber. Pale yellow and almost spherical, the baseball-sized lemon cucumbers we found at Good Hummus were described as a mellow, less astringent version of the common salad and sandwich component. We snatched up two of them.

As we’re in the thick of avocado season, we picked up a few of those as well, and I began to have visions of the only vegetable sandwich I’ve ever really loved—cucumber, avocado and cream cheese. With the riches of the Farmers’ Market before us, we compiled ingredients to make a gussied up version of this sandwich.

Oakland A's Colors

Instead of cream cheese, we got Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s delicious Foggy Morning. Foggy Morning is a soft, cow’s milk cheese that is light and delicious.

Unwrapped Cheese

For bread, Jen selected Oktoberfeast Bakery’s Sabine’s Sandwich Bread, a dense but soft rye loaf.

Sabine's Sandwich Bread

I sliced the cucumbers and avocado in quarter inch slices.

Sliced Sandwich Filings

I sliced the bread, then spread a thin layer of mayo on one side and whole grain mustard on the other.

Mustard and Mayo

I spread a healthy layer of the Foggy Morning cheese on top of the mayo. In many years of sandwich making (and appreciating), I’ve discovered that the cheese almost always belongs right next to the mayonnaise, where they can conspire in a creamy, vegan-repellant delirium.

Cheese on the Bread

I piled the cucumbers on top of the cheese and the avocado over the mustard. Another thing I’ve learned from many years of sandwich enjoyment is that you always want something a little tangy next to the avocado.

Cucumber and Avocado Added

Finally, I sprinkled some Turkish black pyramid salt on the cucumbers and some fresh ground pepper on the avocado.

Turkish Pyramid Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper

The finished sandwiches made for a delightful and hearty lunch.

Finished Sandwiches

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Twenty One: Bacon

Last Saturday, I celebrated my birthday with an epic dance party as envisioned by my 12 year old self. It came off like Young M.C., with tons of early 90s R&B, folks dressed in fantastic neons, silks and bike shorts and above all lots and lots of dancing. This post isn’t really about my birthday, beyond introducing the provenance of this week’s bacon. An earlier Fifty Two Foods post covered a side dish we brought to a pork dinner some friends hosted. Those same friends brought me a truly thoughtful birthday gift of seriously gorgeous, thick cut bacon from the same hog as that glorious dinner.

Birthday Bacon

James Villas, a most laudable food writer, and author of The Bacon Cookbook, writes that “bacon is one of the oldest meats in history,” and that rich history is evidenced in the myriad dishes that use bacon to add flavor and richness. I’ve already used bacon or its cousin in two posts, and I expect it will make a few more cameos before the year is through. However, to truly do a bacon post justice—and, moreover, to do justice to this very special bacon—I wanted to prepare a meal where bacon stands front and center. No other dish succeeds at this like the humble BLT.

BLTs are so ubiquitous, it is easy to overlook the care that is needed to make an excellent version of the sandwich. The lettuce and tomato must both be fresher and more flavorful than in most sandwiches, because they are so central to the overall flavor. The bacon, meanwhile, must be neither so crisp that it makes the sandwich dry nor so soft that it is chewy. My preference is for a few slices of thick cut bacon, that have cooked slowly, achieving an outward crispness while maintaining a slight toothsomeness. The bread should be lightly grilled, with just enough mayo to coat each slice. When these elements all come together correctly, they create a wonderful dance: warm and cool, salty and juicy, tender and crisp.

For our BLTs, we began with five impressively thick slices of bacon, cooked slowly on a Lodge griddle.

Bacon on the Griddle

I flipped the bacon periodically and cooked it over medium heat for 30 minutes, shifting the slices if one was taking on color too quickly. When they were finished, they had lost about 30% of their size, and had taken on an even dark brown color. I haven’t had a chance to ask how the bacon was smoked, but I’m pretty certain maple was involved, as they had a very nice sweet aroma.

Almost Done

For the tomatoes, we selected two smallish red ones of an unspecified heirloom variety. I sliced them fairly thinly.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Finally, we used some very fresh green leaf lettuce from the Farmers’ Market.

Fresh Green Leaf Lettuce

For bread, I took the recommendation of the OctoberFeast Bakery vendor, and chose their excellent Pretzel Bread. I sliced the bread on the diagonal for extra long slices.

Sliced Pretzel Bread

In a fit of decadence, we dipped the outside of each slice in the bacon grease, then grilled them for a few minutes in a panini press. This left the outsides of each piece slightly crispy, while the insides were warm and soft.

Grilled Bread

We added mayo to each slice, then added the bacon.

Apply Bacon

The lettuce came next, followed by the tomatoes.

Apply Tomato

We stuck a skewer through each half and sliced the sandwiches down the center. Then enjoyed.

Up Close and Personal

This was easily one of the best BLTs I’ve ever had. The bacon was simply outstanding—thick and dense with smoke and salt. It offset the fresh, light flavor of the lettuce and tomato perfectly. The bread was also very well matched, and grilling with the bacon grease just amped up the B-factor in a fantastic fashion. My only regret is that there isn’t more bacon.

Enjoy all the photos here.

52 Foods Week Five: Carrots

This week I had intended to cover fennel, but my fennel went bad before I could put something together. Instead I turned to some carrots that were leftover from an earlier meal. Since I hadn’t planned on using these for Fifty Two Foods, I neglected to get the name of the Farmers’ Market Booth we got them from.


A few months ago, I made my first batch of pickled carrots, and I was extremely pleased with the way they turned out. I mostly ate the carrots whole as snacks or palate cleansers at the end of a salmon dinner, but I also tried them in a sandwich, where they added a fantastic zing. I decided to make some carrots especially for sandwiches, and sliced them before pickling so they would be ready to go right out of the jar.

My pickling recipe is still a bit of a work in progress. I wanted the carrots to come out nice and spicy, so this recipe is really heavy on pepper—both black peppercorns and ground cayenne. It also has mustard seed, ground coriander, juniper berries and a bay leaf.

Pickling Spices

I toasted the spices in a sauce pot over medium-low heat, until they were nice and fragrant. Then I added equal parts water and white vinegar, along with some salt and sugar, and turned the heat up to get it all boiling.

Toasting the Spices

After the mixture boiled, I poured it over the sliced carrots in a canning jar, then let it cool for about 45 minutes before putting the lid on and placing them in the fridge. These should keep one to two weeks in the refrigerator.

The sandwich I mentioned earlier was a fig and chèvre grilled sandwich, with sliced pickled carrots in the middle. I used a tasty Dalmatia fig spread, which I’ve seen in many grocery stores, and a nice Sonoma made chèvre from Laura Chenel.

FIg Spread, Carrots and Goat Cheese

Butter the backsides of two slices of bread, and then spread chèvre on one slice and the fig spread on the other. Place a layer of carrot slices in the middle, then grill in a panini maker or in a skillet. The spiciness of the carrots plays really well with the sweetness of the fig, and the smooth, cool flavor of the chèvre brings it all together. You may want a second sandwich, so make sure you pickle enough carrots.

Grilled Goat Cheese with Fig Spread and Pickled Carrots

Pickled Carrots:

Scrubbed and sliced carrots
1 tbsp. mustard seed
1 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. juniper berries.
1 bay leaf
1 1/3 cup vinegar
1 1/3 cup water
2 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar

Toast mustard seed, coriander, black peppercorns, cayenne pepper and bay leaf in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. When spices become fragrant, add vinegar, water salt and sugar. Cook over high heat until boiling and salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour over sliced carrots in a canning jar. Let cool and refrigerate at least 12 hours before enjoying.

Pickling Begins

See all the photos here.