BLT Summer Salad with Avocado Basil Dressing (gluten free, vegan optional)
Never have I ever had a BLT Sandwich... up until a few weeks ago!
Growing up, my family didn't really make bacon. I was also a super picky eater, so even if it was around I probably wouldn't have tried it. I also didn't really eat tomatoes. The only component of a BLT that I did eat was lettuce. Plain, romaine lettuce leaves. I don't know why I preferred the rabbit-style of eating to this food, but since it was one of the few veggies I ate, my mom let it happen!
As I got older I've grown an appreciation for all 3 components of the BLT.
As most of you will agree, bacon is just delicious. Crispy, salty, smokey - it has it all and will keep you coming back for more! We don't eat it very often but once in a while Peter and I will make it for a special weekend breakfast. Peter has perfected the method for cooking bacon. He lines a baking sheet with 2 pieces of parchment paper overlaying the sides. This keeps the grease from making a mess on the pans, and cooks the bacon evenly, to our desired crispiness.
Tomatoes are perfect little gifts from nature. My dad grows them in his garden, so there is always an abundance in the late summer months. Tomato salad is my family's go-to summer lunch, and dinner, and BBQ accompaniment. Since they are in their peak growing season right now, it's the perfect time to make this salad!
You might think lettuce is just... lettuce, but there are so many types beyond romaine and iceberg. There's red and green leaf lettuce, Butter/Boston/Bibb lettuce and then the other greens you can mix in like kale, arugula or spinach. So many options, and so many opportunities for a diversity of plants!
So as I was saying before, one of my first experiences with a BLT was a VEGAN BLT at a restaurant called Grass Roots Kitchen in Tarrytown, NY. It had the perfect slice of fresh
tomato, crisp lettuce, shiitake bacon and a basil aioli. That's what inspired me to make this salad.
For my vegetarian and vegan friends- fear not! This salad was actually inspired by that vegan sandwich. Since I eat mostly plant based, I created the meat-free version of this salad with a shiitake bacon. The shiitake mushrooms have a great crisp texture with a little bit of chew. The flavor is a combination of smokiness from smoked paprika, saltiness from coconut aminos and sweetness from maple syrup. It's a great alternative that goes so well with the tomatoes, lettuce and dressing.
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: 1 serving of vegan shiitake bacon (see recipe below)
MEAT EATERS: 1-8oz package of bacon, cooked (we use Organic Uncured Center Cut from Whole Foods)
1 head green leaf lettuce, chopped
2 large heirloom tomatoes OR 4-5 plum tomatoes, cut into slices and wedges
Avocado Basil Dressing, to taste (see recipe below)
Avocado Basil Dressing:
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/8 cup white balsamic
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Vegan Shiitake Bacon:
1lb shiitake mushroms, sliced
2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Large pinch salt
Pepper to taste
For the Avocado Basil Dressing
Add all ingredients to a food processor or high speed blender. If the dressing seems to thick, add in a tablespoon-at-a-time of water to thin it out.
For the Shiitake Bacon
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients for the mushrooms.
Toss mushrooms in the bowl with the marinade, add to parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until crispy (watch because it can quickly go from crispy to burnt).
For the Salad
To a large bowl add 1/4 cup of dressing*.
Add lettuce, tomatoes, and bacon or shiitake bacon to bowl and toss until everything is coated with the dressing.
*add more dressing as you prefer!
Make this recipe and share your photos with me on Instagram or Facebook @bewellwithmarissa !