I get to a point every summer where I’m just about bursting at the seams with anticipation of our homegrown summer tomatoes. It’s bad. And it’s especially bad this year since my tomato plants are only now just starting to flower. We started them from seed months ago, put the seedlings in the ground, and they about died. I about died. I figured that we fertilized them waaay too early because the poor little leaves started spotting, almost as if they were burned. But alas, with plenty of water and heat (lord knows we’re set in that department this summer), they are flourishing now. 16 Brandywine plants in the back yard and 12 Bonny Best in the front yard (we literally ran out of garden space in the back yard)…I suspect August and September will be delicious months for us!
Which will be a perfect problem to have, as far as I’m concerned. It means plenty of these pesto-bacon-tomato sandwiches, tarts like this one with a basil garlic crust, fresh tomato pizza, frozen sauce, and more of this BLT panzanella salad. Because adding bacon to a crouton-y salad? I’m all over it. And to simplify things a little, I baked the bacon at the same time the croutons were baking, making clean-up easy and to help justify using the oven in the middle of the summer. I also added a little shredded cheddar to the salad because I love a slice of sharp cheese on my BLT. To top the salad, I drizzled on a little ranch dressing – Kyle used balsamic vinaigrette – mostly because it was already made but also because I’m running out of room on the fridge door (in the designated dressing area) with all of the dressings I’ve been making. I knew I’d love this salad from the start (and I did) and the slightly skeptical Kyle also scarfed it down (plus seconds) once he realized what a silly boy he was for judging a salad by its cover. Stick with me, kid, stick with me.
- 1 small baguette
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 6 oz bacon
- 1 heart of Romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, and chopped (about 3-4 cups)
- 2-3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- Preheat the oven to 450° F. Cut the baguette up into 1-inch cubes and scatter the pieces out on a baking sheet. Drizzle the butter over the bread cubes, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and toss them around with your fingers to evenly coat with the butter, salt, and pepper. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the bacon out on the parchment paper.
- Transfer both baking sheets to the oven. Bake the bread cubes for 6-8 minutes, tossing once or twice during that time, until the cubes are starting to brown and turn crispy. Remove them from the oven and set the pan on a wire rack. Continue to bake the bacon for another 5-7 minutes, or until it reaches your desired level of crispness. Carefully remove the pan from the oven (the bacon fat will slosh around in the pan and could splatter) and transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Once cool enough to handle, break the bacon up into ½-inch or so pieces.
- In a large serving bowl, toss the chopped lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, bacon, and cheese together. Serve in individual bowls or family style with your choice of dressing on the side.
source: adapted from Annie's Eats