Eat Local America : BLT Salad

This is the second post in the 2013 Eat Local America! Challenge series. Each year Minnesota co-ops celebrate the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables available August by promoting a month of local eating. Minnesota Locavore and readers around the state are taking the challenge to eat meals made from local ingredients. Stop back all month long for recipes, local products and tips for jump starting your month of local food. 

If there’s anything I love in the world, it’s rules. I was the kid on the playground screaming “You’re not following the rules!” I was the pushy 7th grader in student government trying to make the rules. Now I work with parents, teachers and my staff to help them better enforce the rules. Rules make me happy. I’m sorry if that makes me obnoxious challenging sometimes, it’s just how I roll.

BLT Salad Ingredients

One of the questions I get asked most about a locavore diet is some version of: ‘So…like…are there rules?’

Of course! I wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, (and for this year’s Eat Local America! Challenge at the Sippl house) the rules about eating local are pretty simple:

1 – Source everything from 250 miles or less.

2 – No more than 1 or 2 non-local ingredients per recipe. If it didn’t come from within the 250 mile range, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin or the Dakotas should be the next place to look. Non-local ingredients should be restricted to raw ingredients like olive oil, salt, seasonings, and sugar. Or ingredients like pectin or rennet that help me turn my local ingredients into something fabulous. No where in this 1-2 exceptions rule are things like double-chocolate marshmallow brownies and pepperoni pizza. (You can read about why that is here…)

3 – Just because I eat one way does not give me permission to be offensive or to be a hermit. I will never refuse a meal prepared for me, nor would I turn down a get-together with friends over a menu.  If we’re eating out I make smarter choices. Ask what’s the most local thing on the menu. Never choose seafood.  And use some seasonal common sense. There’s just no fruit salad in January that will ever be worth it. Sometimes I gently suggest restaurants with local on the menu. You can read about this on my Simple Good and Tasty guest post today: Co-op on a Budget – Let’s do lunch!

4 – And finally: Take my cup of green tea away in the morning and I might launch you off my car roof during morning rush hour.

Homemade Croutons from Challah

These are the rules as they have shaken out since I began my first locavore eating challenge in 2011. They have been bent, broken, wrestled and strictly obeyed. The important thing to know is these are my rules that fit with what I think is best for me. Spend some time Googling locavore and you’ll get an idea just how many sets of rules there are. No one set of rules is any better than the others, just as long as you’re focused on making smart choices about where you spend your food dollars.

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Thankfully, being a locavore doesn’t mean I spend much time hungry. August in Minnesota means our pantry shelves are filling up and our farmers’ markets are overflowing. Today I’m sharing a recipe that follows another one of my food rules: Everything’s better with bacon!

This all-local BLT salad has fresh lettuce and tomatoes from the garden, bacon from Pastures A Plenty in Kerkhoven, MN and crusty toasted homemade croutons. Toss it together with sunflower oil and some sharp cheddar cheese and I can hear the crowds in your kitchen roaring with applause.

BLT Salad with Bacon, Tomatoes and Homemade Croutons

 BLT Salad 

Adapted from Cooking Light Mix and Match Low-Calorie Cookbook

Ingredients
For the croutons
4-5 slices of stale bread (I used homemade challah, but any soft loaf will do)
drizzle of sunflower oil
salt and pepper

For the salad
4 slices of thick-cut bacon
1/4 cup of sunflower oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 cups fresh greens
1 1/2 cups cherry or mini-plum tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cubed

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Gently tear the stale bread into 1″ pieces and evenly layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle with sunflower oil and season to taste. Bake for 18 minutes or until browned and toasted.

2. While croutons are baking, cook bacon over medium-low heat until crispy. Remove from pan, add in remaining oil and salt and pepper to bacon drippings. Whisk together until well combined. Set aside.

3. Roughly chop fresh greens and slice tomatoes lengthwise. Cut cooled bacon into large pieces. Toss ingredients with cilantro and cheese in a large bowl. Add toasted croutons to the top. Only use as many croutons as you plan to eat in one sitting. The rest of the salad is fine refrigerated as leftovers, however the croutons should be stored separately in a air-tight container until ready to be used.

4.Drizzle with bacon drippings over the salad. Toss again to evenly coat. Serve immediately.

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