Here in California, Indian summer is (finally) in full swing. This means we get a few weeks of end-of-season tomatoes, and we do try and make the most of them. As noted in the blog, we generally make Caprese salads with our tomatoes, or even match them with blue cheese for a tangy dish. But as we move toward fall, we like to match up the tomatoes with bigger, meatier flavors. Around here, that usually means adding bacon.
And since we make our own bacon and need to use our ripe tomatoes, this dish pops-up regularly on our table. And if matching tomatoes and bacon, then cheddar cheese won’t be far behind (no, we don’t make our own cheese…yet). In fact, this salad is really a deconstructed version of one of our favorite versions of grilled cheese and/or filling for omelets. The sweet acidity of the tomato matches with the salty, crunchy bacon and the sharp, creamy cheddar cheese- a good range of flavors and textures. We also add some Italian parsley, oil, vinegar, seasoning and (optionally) a little hot sauce to round out the dish. This salad has a lot of flavor and will please a crowd.
Making the salad is as easy as browning some bacon or pancetta, slicing tomatoes and grating cheese. But we do suggest a few things to make the most of the dish. Firstly, using a few varieties of tomatoes (we used purple Cherokee, Valencia and Sungolds) adds depth of flavor and texture. Secondly, be sure to use the best bacon you can get and cook until very crispy, the crunch adds a lot to the dish. Sharp cheddar cheese, white or orange, works best. Sherry vinegar plays very well with tomatoes, but cider vinegar will also work. A little heat will add a lot to the dish, if there is a hot sauce you like, a few dashes on the tomatoes will take this dish over the top. Finally, make the dish a few minutes ahead, allowing time for the cheese to reach room temperature and the flavors to meld is worth the wait.