My dad has a deep love for the Farmer's Market. He also shares a love of all things involving gardening and landscaping and I certainly enjoy reaping the benefits. When he goes to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, he enjoys sharing his favorite booths with us. One of the "must stops" is Tollefson's Family Pork stand. I have heard it said "Bacon is the gateway meat" and if that's true, I think the bacon from this Minneapolis-local and dedicated family farm might push anyone flirting with Vegetarianism right into a full-blown carnivore.
I had been dreaming of a way to use this really incredible bacon and this BLT Panzanella Salad seemed like a perfect way to feature it alongside some great summer flavors. Panzanella is usually an Italian bread and tomato salad (a good way to use up stale bread). But as "They" also say, "Everything's better with bacon," so this version was a bit of a take on a BLT that was enhanced with creamy avocado. I also got to use fresh basil from the garden (Hallelujah! That is a joyous summer rite of passage!), topped it with some sliced grilled chicken (so officially it turned more into a "Club Panzanella Salad, I suppose) and called it a day. A very delicious day.
Panzanella Club Salad
1/2 pound thick cut bacon
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ripe avocado, cut into bite sized chunks
5 ounce box of washed salad greens (or about 6 cups lettuce of your choice in bite-sized pieces)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade), plus more for garnish
1 loaf Ciabatta or French Bread, cut into 1" cubes (day old is fine)
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Sliced grilled chicken, optional
Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from pan and reserve 2 Tablespoons drippings for bread cubes. Cut cooled bacon into 1" pieces. Set aside.
Toss bread cubes with bacon drippings (or 2 tablespoons olive oil, if you prefer). Spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until slightly crispy and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
Pour vinegar in a small jar or bowl. Stir in mustard, maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle in olive oil and whisk or put lid on jar and shake furiously until smooth and well combined. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.
To assemble: In a large bowl, combine lettuce, basil leaves, halved tomatoes, avocado chunks, croutons and bacon pieces. Pour over vinaigrette and toss well. Garnish with fresh basil leaves as desired and serve immediately.
Adapted from Alton Brown's TBL Panzanella recipe
|My Dad and older son enjoying the Farmer's Market|
|Playing in Grandpa's Garden|
|inspecting how everything's coming along...|