A big refreshing bowl of salad is a great dinner in the heat of summer. Too veggie, you say? No worries, there is a happy, meaty answer to that: bacon ends. Yep, contemplate that. I did my own contemplating when I spied a bag of bacon ends for the first time at the farmers’ market.
After asking a few questions, I learned that when those tidy pre-sliced bacon packages are created, all of the irregular hunks and ends are discarded in order to produce supermarket-packaged perfection. I snagged a package. Now I am here to tell you that you want those ends. They are veritable chunks of heaven for bacon lovers.
BLT Salad with Bacon Ends and Avocado
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Grilling Time: 30 minutes
Yield: serves 4 as a main course salad
1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon ends, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of country or sourdough bread
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large head lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
Corn kernels cut from one ear of corn
1 large Hass avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat (about 400 degrees for a gas grill). Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the ends into 1-inch chunks and arrange on a grill rack (or grate) set over a grill pan to capture the rendered fat. Grill until the fat is rendered and the ends are crispy and golden, about 25 minutes. (You can do this in the oven with a broiler pan, if you like.) Transfer the ends to a plate.
Toss the bread in the rendered fat. Spread the bread on a grill pan or the grates and grill until golden and crisp, turning as needed, 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add the bacon, half the croutons and dressing to your taste and toss to combine. Garnish with the remaining croutons and serve with any remaining dressing.
— Lynda Balslev is the co-author of “Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture” (Gibbs Smith, 2014). Contact her at TasteFood, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.