The BLT served best — as a soup

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Everyone knows Joyce Kilmer's love song to trees — "I think that I shall never see/ A poem lovely as a tree." That's the way I feel about tomatoes. Accordingly, Chilled BLT Soup puts the "T" in BLT. Yes, there's bacon and lettuce, and some toast, too, in the form of croutons. But the star of this show is the tomato in its season.

How do you know whether you're buying a good tomato? To start, pick it up. It should feel heavy, which lets you know it's ripe and juicy. Then take a whiff of the stem end. It should smell strongly like ... a tomato. Once you get it home, store it on the counter, out of the sun. If it's not fully red, just leave it alone. It will continue to ripen at room temperature. Don't put a whole uncut tomato in the refrigerator. Chilling it will kill the flavor and the texture.

You want to salt your tomatoes ahead of time, before you cook them, a step that helps to concentrate their flavor. First salt the large tomatoes, which form the base of the soup. Then salt the quartered tomatoes, which provide crunch.

The tomatoes in this recipe don't need to be seeded or peeled. That's because you're going to puree them in a blender until smooth. (Use a blender, not a food processor, which doesn't produce a smooth texture.) Also, if you seed the tomatoes, you lose a lot of the jelly surrounding the seeds — and that jelly is where the tomato essence lives.

On the chance that you've somehow underrated tomatoes before, this deeply flavorful and refreshing soup will show you what you've been missing.

CHILLED BLT SOUP

Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes (30 active), plus chilling time

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

3 pounds large tomatoes

Kosher salt

2 cups 1/2-inch bread cubes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

4 slices bacon

1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Black pepper

1 cup shredded romaine

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Core and cut the large tomatoes into 1/2-inch thick wedges. In a large bowl toss the wedges with 1 teaspoon salt and set them aside for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, on a large rimmed sheet pan toss the bread cubes with 1 tablespoon olive oil until they are well coated. Sprinkle them very lightly with salt and toss again. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until they are golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Set them aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. When the bacon is cool, crumble it and set it aside.

In a strainer set over a bowl toss the cherry tomatoes with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let them drain for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl combine the mayonnaise with the garlic, the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the tomato juice from the drained cherry tomatoes and stir well.

Working in batches, transfer the tomato wedges and their liquid to a blender and blend until very smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the cherry tomatoes and chill the soup until it is cold.

To serve: Spoon one-fourth of the soup into each of the four soup bowls. Drizzle each portion with some of the mayonnaise and top with the bacon, the romaine and the croutons.

Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories; 250 calories from fat; 28 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 13 mg cholesterol; 573 mg sodium; 27 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 8 g protein.


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