Ever wonder how one of America’s best-loved sandwiches became known as the BLT, as opposed to the LTB or some other variation? There isn’t really a strong consensus about it in the food history world. John Mariani hypothesizes this term evolved from diner/lunchroom slang: “Lunch counters have provided etymologists and linguists with one of the richest sources of American slang, cant, and jargon, usually based on a form of verbal shorthand bandied back and forth between waiters and cooks. Some terms have entered familiar language of most Americans–“BLT” (a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich)…and others–but most remain part of a bewildering and colorful language specific to the workers in such establishments.”
Etymologist Barry Popik offered this more colorful explanation: “The BLT sandwich (bacon, lettuce, tomato) possibly comes from Chicago and was named after its famed Chicago Tribune writer BLT, or Bert L. Taylor. The ‘BLT’ is first cited in print in 1941.” Possibly. I’m not convinced because the acronym “BLT” doesn’t appear in print until 20 years after Bert Taylor’s death, but I appreciate Mr. Popik’s creativity.
I was picky about some vegetables as a child, so I avoided BLTs because of the lettuce. My love for BLTs began in Copenhagen, of all places. I was in high school, there on vacation with my family and we grabbed a quick dinner at the Americanized cafe in our hotel lobby one night. I loved the tall sandwich – 4 slices of toasty white bread, each holding in place a thin strata of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. And the I still remember the crunch when I bit into it.
I grew to love BLTs even more this earlier year when I discovered that they could make even the nastiest vegetarian bacon enjoyable. But I really feel like this isn’t just a recipe for BLT pasta. It’s a recipe for fancy BLT pasta (notice the green onions, feta cheese, and optional orange zest). I think Fancy Nancy would be proud. By the way, I recently learned about the Fancy Nancy book series when I was babysitting a friend’s child a few weeks ago. I feel like I really missed out on something special in my childhood.
Now here’s a catch: I used turkey bacon (yes, I generally prefer the way it tastes – I know I am sometimes crazy). You can absolutely use regular bacon. But I would encourage you to pour out the majority of the bacon grease, leaving about 1 teaspoon before you add the olive oil and begin to cook the tomatoes and green onions. Turkey bacon produces far less grease than regular bacon and I’d hate for you to end up with overly oily/bacon infused pasta – though some may consider that an improvement, so use your judgement.
The recipe isn’t pictured with orange zest, but in the past I’ve added a little on top of the pasta just before serving it. You could always leave out the bacon entirely to make this vegetarian. It wouldn’t be BLT pasta, but would still be packed with spinach, green onions, tomatoes, and feta. Even with my undying love for BLTs, I don’t think that sounds like a bad option.
- • 1 pound bowtie pasta
- • 5 slices turkey bacon
- • 8 green onions, chopped (green and white parts)
- • 3 tablespoons olive oil
- • 3 garlic cloves, minced
- • 1 pint grape tomatoes
- • 5 ounces spinach
- • ½ cup feta cheese
- • Optional garnish: orange zest
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.
- Cook turkey bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the bacon is crispy. remove it from the pan and place it on a paper-towel lined plate. Crumble it when it is cool.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, green onions, garlic, and tomatoes to the skillet used to cook the bacon. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 7 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and return it to the pot it cooked in. Add the tomato, crumbled bacon, spinach, and remaining oil. Toss until spinach begins to wilt. Remove form heat and stir in the feta. Divide into bowls and dust with orange zest.