From Too Many Chefs -

July 3, 2006
BLT Salad, Veg style

Moving to Maryland has been an experience and a half. Yes, our bed finally arrived, but though it took four men to move the bed and the rest of our stuff onto the truck in Chicago, it took two and a half men (one being a ten year old boy) five long hours to unload our posessions in the rain last week.

Since then, I've been trying to figure out exactly how I fit twice as much stuff into a kitchen half the size that I have now, yet I can't fit what I currently have into the new kitchen. Hunh.

Aside from that, we've been painting, patching, repairing, adjusting, tightening, loosening, buying a new car, and generally adapting to life in the heart of deepest darkest suburbia. Oh, and spending. Lots and lots of spending on newly essential items.

One item essential to the new life was getting DirectTV after a year without cable or satellite (it was a token gesture to help fund the downpayment on our current domicile). This means I can now enjoy Food TV and the scientific peregrinations of Alton Brown once more. I missed the mad scientist of the kitchen.

As chance would have it, the first show of his I happened on of his was the tomato pecker show (it's a bird, theoretically - get your mind out of the gutter) where he transforms tomatoes into all manner of dishes including a bacon, lettuce, tomato and bread salad - a BLT panzanella. This sounded good to me and a simple dish to help ease me into my new kitchen (which, by the way, still has the old stove - it takes time to get workmen out to install a gas line, apparently. Give me a few weeks.)

Of course, Alton has no problem eating bacon or meat of any variety. We, however are pescetarians (otherwise vegetarians who eat fish), and real bacon was right out. Losing the bacon means losing the bacon fat and drippings which are important to the original recipe. I thought a bit and worked out a vegetarian version of a blt sandwich in salad form. I retain most of Alton's tricks like mixing uncooked and cooked tomatoes, but I use olive oil instead of bacon grease, and do a couple of other things a little differently as well.

If you are also eschewing meat or just pork, try this version of Alton's BLT Salad. Or, if you prefer, use real bacon and cut the olive oil usage in half.

NOTE: I have pictures of this salad, but I'm still looking in boxes for the card reader for my PC. I shoudl find it later today and will add a pic to this post.

BLT Salad, Veg Style
1/2 loaf french bread
1-1/2 heads Romaine lettuce
2 Eight oz. packages cherry or grape tomatoes
1 Eight oz. package Smart Bacon or other vegetarian "fake-en"
4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt, pepper to taste

The day before, cut the bread into 1" or smaller cubes. Leave out to get stale. If you foget to do this step, cut the bread up and toast in an oven at 150-200 F until the bread is crispy, but has not taken on any color.

Wash and drain all your vegetables.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a skillet. Add the vegetarian bacon substitute (what a horrible name for such tasty stuff). Fry until crisp, turning once. Work in batches if necessary. Remove finished bacon to a plate, but do not drain. You want that oil. Once all the bacon is finished, chop it up into 1/2" or smaller pieces.

Cut one package of cherry tomatoes into halves. Cut the other into quarters. Add the halves to the same skillet you cooked the veggie bacon in. Add a pinch of salt and the red wine vinegar. Over medium heat, sautee the tomatoes, tossing frequently until they soften take on a little color here and there and the red wine vinegar is evaporated - about 5 minutes. Remove to a large bowl.

Cut off the core end of the Romaine and discard. Slice the romaine lengthwise once, then into 1" strips with cuts perpendicular to the first one. Add to the bowl the cooked tomatoes are in.

Add the bacon and uncooked cherry tomato quarters to the bowl. Mix well.

Now, add half the bread to the skillet you cooked the bacon and tomatoes in with one tablespoon of olive oil. Toss and warm the bread. Once all the oil and residual bacon and tomato flavors have been absorbed, remove the cubes to the bowl. Repeat with the rest of the bread.

Toss the salad well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at July 3, 2006 9:57 AM

Yay! Comments are back!

Barrett, I think this sounds lovely, but personally if I were vegetarian (but fish eating) I'd substitute smoked trout or kippers for the fake bacon. Fake bacon is evil.

(And yes, bacon is one of the many reasons I could never be vegetarian!!)

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 5, 2006 at 3:40 AM

Oh ye of little fake bacon experience. Modern fake bacon is pretty darn good. Most importantly you couldn't call this a BLT salad unless you used breem or bonano or other b-fish.

But smoked fish is near and dear to my heart and I might well see doing a chub, lettuce, and tomato or a sable lettuce and tomato salad.

Posted by barrett on July 5, 2006 at 9:32 AM