BACON: Makes this bread salad even better. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Note: This recipe requires three-fourths cup bacon grease, probably more than you'll render when cooking the bacon below. If you fall short and don't keep any extra on hand, substitute best-quality olive oil. Frisée is also known as curly endive and chicory.
1/2 pound thick-cut bacon
3/4 cup bacon grease or best-quality olive oil or mixture of the two, divided
3 garlic cloves
1 stale French baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 medium red onion, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/8 -inch-thick slices
1/2 cup Nicoise olives, or similar black brined olives
1/2 cup loosely packed torn basil leaves
2 tablespoons loosely packed oregano leaves
2 cups loosely packed torn radicchio leaves
3 cups loosely packed frisée
3 cups loosely packed mâche or arugula
1. In a large sauté pan, cook the bacon strips over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the strips are crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels, reserving the bacon grease.
2. In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease over medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and as many cubes of bread as will fit in a single layer (this may need to be done in a couple of batches). Toast the bread until golden brown on all sides, stirring frequently. Add additional grease as needed (the bread will soak it up as it toasts), up to 2 more tablespoons. Remove from heat and place the bread in a large bowl.
3. Make the tomato vinaigrette: In a large nonreactive saucepan, whisk together the crushed tomatoes, remaining one-half cup bacon grease, sherry vinegar, salt and several grinds of pepper. The grease will thicken as it cools; if necessary, heat the vinaigrette gently over low heat while whisking until the dressing is emulsified.
4. Pour half the dressing over the toasted bread and toss with your hands until the cubes are evenly coated. Add the onion, olives, basil and oregano and toss until evenly incorporated. Allow the dressing to soak into the cubes to desired tenderness, 10 to 15 minutes if you like the bread soft on the outside with a little crunch in the center.
5. When the bread is soaked, add the radicchio, frisée and mâche; toss to combine. Add additional dressing as needed to lightly coat the leaves.
6. Plate individual servings of the salad or serve in a large serving bowl. Crumble the bacon slices over and serve immediately.
Each serving: 379 calories; 9 grams protein; 30 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 26 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 29 mg. cholesterol; 888 mg. sodium.