Undoubtedly one of the very best things about the latter half of summer is the abundance of fresh tomatoes. Bonus flavor points if they come directly from the garden or farmers market. Certainly a ripe summer tomato is a thing of beauty all on its own, but when the bounty presents itself, they are just begging to be used in all sorts of dishes. I started thinking about different ways to use tomatoes that would highlight their fresh from the garden flavor. Inspired by the classic sandwich combo, I dreamed up this BLT panzanella.

Essentially, this is a deconstructed BLT in salad form. It’s got all the components of the sandwich we know and love but is served in a way that makes it ideal for summer cook outs, pitch-ins, etc. It’s guaranteed to be a hit at your next get together. If you are serving more than just a few, you’ll definitely want to double the recipe. Trust me!

BLT Panzanella
By Annie
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the salad:

1 small baguette

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Kosher salt and pepper

6 ounces bacon

2-3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes

1 heart of Romaine lettuce, rinsed, dried, and chopped (about 3-4 cups)

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

For the dressing:

1 clove garlic, finely grated or minced

Juice of half a lemon

3 tablespoons low-fat Greek yogurt or mayonnaise

3 tablespoons buttermilk

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Remove the crust from the baguette and cut into cubes, about ¾- to 1-inches. Combine the cubed bread in a bowl with the melted butter and toss to coat evenly. Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake about 6 minutes, tossing once or twice during baking, until the bread cubes are golden brown and somewhat crisp. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to medium-high and cook the bacon until crisp but not burned. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.

In a large salad bowl, combine the toasted bread cubes, tomatoes, lettuce, and Parmesan. Crumble the cooked bacon over the top. Toss gently to combine. In a jar or small lidded container, combine the garlic, lemon juice, Greek yogurt and buttermilk. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Portion the salad into serving bowls and drizzle each serving very lightly with the dressing.

*Make ahead instructions: For best results, this dish should be assembled just before it is served. However, all of the components can be prepped in advance so that all that is required before serving is a bit of mixing.

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