Tomatoes are the lush prima donnas in the short operas of a
western New York summer. They peak in
flavorful perfection for only several weeks and then their cardboard-tasting sham of a relative takes their place in the supermarket. It was my late Nana that opened my eyes, or rather, my mouth, to what a blissful experience a good tomato could be. As an eight-year old, tomatoes generally disgusted me but one summer afternoon Nana served me a snack—you never said no to what you were dished, especially not to Nana whose pride and glory was in
feeding and caring for others—a ripe, dripping tomato sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I was won over by the delectable, sun-warmed flavor and remember declaring my new-found revelation to my mother, wondering perhaps, why I hadn’t been fed such a wonderful thing before. These days, I rarely will buy a store
tomato from a factory farm. We are blessed with the most delightful tomatoes you could dream of from our backyard CSA,
which our neighbor’s farm with devotion. Having received a bouquet of the vibrant orbs in our bag for the week, I knew I would make this
salad, the tomatoes starring, along with handfuls of purple and green basil also grown out back. This salad has no delicate, high-brow personality; it explodes in flavor and crunch and is unabashed in the unctuousness of the creamy dressing. Some may tremble at the use of bacon drippings and mayo in the dressing but key here, nutrition wise, is not the reduction of fat. More important is your brand of bacon, using the purest, nitrate-free meat available as well as a homemade or at least organic mayo.
1/2 pound bacon
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, preferably raw
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 slices crusty bread, preferably whole wheat
4 tbs. butter
1 pound romaine lettuce
1. Chop bacon into 1.5 inch (or so) pieces and fry until crispy. Drain bacon and reserve drippings.
2. Cube bread and toss into heated skillet with butter. Season well with salt and black pepper.
3. Toast, stirring to prevent burning, over med-low heat until golden and crunchy.
4. Wash and tear romaine into bite-size pieces.
5. Dice tomatoes and drain excess juice.
7. Mix together reserved bacon drippings, mayo, vinegar, black pepper and basil. Adjust acid or mayo to taste.
8. Layer lettuce, diced tomatoes, croutons, and bacon in a serving bowl right before serving.
9. Serve with dressing on the side or toss lightly to coat immediatly before dishing plates.
This salad would be perfect with grilled salmon or a simple frittata!