BLT Salad is the most requested summer-pot-luck dish we make. It debuted at a party 20 years ago and quickly snuck past-season, appearing on countless Soccer, Hockey, and Lacrosse pre-game team dinner tables, at family reunions, onto December Party sideboards, Valentines Day Celebration tables, spring picnic blankets, and back around to lazy summer dinners when fresh tomatoes are harvested from someone’s garden. It’s especially good with steamed lobster and corn!
When our sons were young they only ate their tomatoes in Ketchup and pasta sauce, so for a few years the “T” in BLT salad was replaced by “P” for sweet red Bell Peppers. After Gus was diagnosed with Celiac Disease we’d make a big salad with GF and conventional croutons in separate bowls on the side. The quality of gluten-free breads and bagels has improved so much that we now make one batch of only GF croutons for everyone. Udi’s Bagels are sturdy, tasty, and readily available, but if you have some of Sweet Christine’s bread in the freezer, use that! We are firm believers in baking bacon in the oven: less mess, more consistent shape, frees up the stove for other activity. Just better.
BLT Salad – Serves 6-8 – easily doubled!
2 heads romaine or Butter lettuce, tougher outer leaves removed, washed and dried.
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, washed, and halved or quartered
8-12 strips center-cut bacon, peppered thick-cut if you can find it
2 GF bagels or 4 slices good quality GF bread torn into bite sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh ground salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1. Turn the oven to 350 Convection Bake (if you don’t have Convection, use conventional Bake.) Lay the strips of bacon in a heavy (broiler) pan and put in the oven as it heats. The bacon will cook quickly, so check after 4-5 minutes to see if it needs to be flipped and pay attention to the scent of just-about-ready-not-yet-burnt bacon.
2. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel, drain the grease, but scrape off and reserve the brown bits and pieces to add to the dressing.
3. Combine the mayonnaise, olive oil, vinegar, pepper, basil leaves, and bacon (scrapings) in a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Blend until creamy, scraping down as needed.
4. Mound the pieces of GF bread or bagel in the center of a medium sized skillet (they should cover the bottom in one layer when spread). Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and grate with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and evenly distribute over the pan. Cook over a medium heat, tossing as the bottoms get golden brown, until they’re evenly toasted. Set aside in a bowl lined with paper towel.
5. Tear the lettuce into bite sized pieces and place in a salad bowl with the tomatoes. Add the bacon and croutons. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately.
Note: if you’re taking this to a party combine the tomatoes and lettuce in the salad bowl, put the dressing in a glass jar you’d be happy to lose, the crumpled bacon in a waxed paper bag or wrapped in paper towel in a baggie, and the croutons in a brown paper lunch bag or plastic bag with a paper towel in the bottom. Moisture is the enemy of a crispy crouton, so you want to insure they’re kept dry.