Think of this salad as a BLT in a bowl - fresh summer tomatoes with a bright vinaigrette, toasted croutons and crispy bacon.
It's hard to improve on a classic BLT, but this may do the trick. Simple and light, the salad puts the fresh tomatoes front and center. They're so beautiful this time of year, why limit yourself to a single slice in a sandwich?
As for the vinaigrette, it's good over everything, proving that bacon actually does make everything better (was there any doubt?). It takes all of 10 minutes to prepare, and earned rave reviews with friends.
Drizzle the dressing over greens for a lovely lunch or starter. For a more portable picnic side, just leave out the lettuce and serve it as tomato bread salad, which should stand up well to the heat.
BLT Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
Serves 8 as a side, or 4 as a main
French baguette 6 oz. bacon (about 9 slices) About 6 cups washed lettuce (a delicate, leafy green is best) 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
For the vinaigrette: 2 tablespoons bacon drippings 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons cider vinegar 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons brown sugar 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper Salt to taste
Cube the baguette into 1/2 inch pieces (should provide around 4 cups of croutons).
In a large nonstick pan, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Carefully remove 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings and set aside, returning the pan to the heat. Add the bread cubes and toss until golden and crispy, stirring regularly, about four minutes.
Mix all vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified. Crumble the bacon. Toss salad ingredients, bacon and croutons, drizzle with dressing and serve.