Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato (and Cucumber) Salad

The last of our bacon was smoked this week (that is a whole other story!) and with the garden coming along nicely, I was craving a BLT sandwich.  Problem.  We are not eating bread right now, and still only eat anything with wheat only about once a month.  I don't want to buy or make bread that won't be used up or that will tempt us.

So....BLT salad was the solution.

Then I discovered that we are almost out of good, organic olive oil so I had nothing to make mayo with.  Gaah!  I wanted my taste of BLT!

Then I remembered reading about "wilted" salads in some of my very old cookbooks.  A dressing would be made with hot fat and tossed with lettuce, wilting it.  I would make a version of this using hot bacon grease.

It was amazing!

And amazingly simple.  For four dinner plates full of salad, I used:

1 head of leaf lettuce
2 tomatoes
3 medium pickling cukes (optional, but they were so fresh and crispy I couldn't resist)
Bacon, at least 1/4 pound, diced, more if you have it and want it extra bacon-y

Grease from cooking the bacon, 1/4-1/3 cup
Apple cider vinegar, preferably raw and organic, 1/8-1/4 cup, to taste
Black pepper to taste, maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp
Salt to taste if needed, as the bacon and grease will be salty

I cooked the bacon bits on low until quite crispy.  While that was cooking, I washed and cut the veggies.  I use a salad spinner to get the lettuce nice and dry.  I also run the tomato slices through the spinner to remove excess liquid....this works like a charm.  If you want to almost completely seed your tomatoes, dice them, then run them through the salad spinner, giving it a few good up-and-down shakes while it is spinning.  You'll end up with seed-free tomato chunks that are not the least bit watery.  If you have chickens, be sure to give them the seedy liquid, and watch them go nuts over it.

Put the cut and washed salad into a big mixing bowl, much larger than the serving bowl, as you will need to toss it quickly and vigorously once the dressing is made.  You also want the veggies to come to room temperature so the bacon fat dressing doesn't congeal on the lettuce.

When the bacon is cooked, drain the hot grease into a heat proof bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, and add some raw, organic apple cider vinegar and some black pepper and whisk it until well blended.   Pour immediately over the salad and toss, toss, toss.  Add salt if your bacon grease was not salty enough.

The recipe I used came from an older version of Joy of Cooking and called for 2 Tbsp bacon grease and 1/4 cup vinegar, but I didn't measure and I also used far more dressing than that for a head of lettuce.  I probably reversed the proportions with twice the grease to vinegar ratio.  This just goes to show that this is a very, very forgiving recipe.  Use what you have and don't worry about it.  It is bacon grease.  How can you go wrong?

Mayonnaise is made using about a cup of oil to a tablespoon or two of vinegar along with raw egg, so my dressing was more in line with those proportions, just no egg.  Although egg probably would have been wonderful, too, now that I think about it.

I would not refrigerate leftovers of this type of salad, as the bacon grease will harden in the cold.  This is a salad to eat up in one sitting.....and it was so delicious, we had no difficulty eating two large platefuls each!  To make it a heartier meal, you can add cheese and cold leftover roasted meat, either in the salad or on the side.  We used some leftover pork roast and home made goat Gouda.

The hubster enthusiastically requested that this recipe be repeated....often!  I have to say that I whole heartedly agreed!