Deconstructed BLT salad is easy to assemble

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This protein-packed salad is a filling meal that’s easy to assemble if you prepare each component ahead of time. It’s like a deconstructed BLT or club sandwich, and just as delicious. It’s another gem from “Raising the Salad Bar,” which I’ve been using a lot more lately for fresh salads for weeknight dinners.

I’ve found that I enjoy salads for dinner instead of lunch because I can assemble them instead of combining them in a tupperware to sit for hours before lunch rolls around. Heartier salads such as this are a great meal to come home to after a long day.

Ingredients
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
5 slices bacon, cooked
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pesto
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups garlic croutons (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise and pesto until well combined. Add the chicken and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the tomatoes, bacon, and croutons. Add lettuce and toss thoroughly.

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A better way to make bacon

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I know very few people who dislike bacon. It seems to be quite the trending food lately, and people are getting creative with things such as chocolate-covered bacon, candied bacon, and more. But I like to keep it basic.

Up until about five years ago, I used to make my bacon in a frying pan like everyone else I knew. Then one of my coworkers told me he baked his. I tried it, and I haven’t looked back.

20140621-223541-81341010.jpgWhen you fry bacon in a frying pan, it stays greasy — which I understand is appealing to some people, but not me. If you do it in the oven, the grease has a chance to drip off. By using a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet, you create room for the drippings to fall through, instead of pooling on top of the bacon. Cook it long enough, and you have perfectly crisp bacon.

Though this method takes a little longer, it is completely worth the wait.

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place a cooling rack on top of the parchment paper. If it doesn’t completely fit in the baking sheet, tilt it in. Place strips of bacon on the cooling rack.

Bake for 20 minutes, then turn bacon over using tongs. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until bacon is crisp all the way through.

BLT Linguine

I was feeling ambitious last weekend. I had already decided to make BLT Linguine for dinner but, when I went to check to see whether I had all the ingredients, I noticed I didn’t have any linguine. I considered going to the store, but then decided I was up to the challenge of making linguine from scratch. In “High Flavor, Low Labor,” Associated Press Food Editor J.M. Hirsch says pasta is easy to make. I decided to see if he was right. It turns out making the pasta dough is easy, but the shaping process is challenging if you’re doing it by hand.

The second batch of pasta

The first batch I made turned out way too thick after it was boiled. I thought I had rolled it out thin enough, but it bulked up considerably during the cooking process. It was unpleasant to eat and I ended up throwing it out. The second time around, I cut the dough into larger sections after rolling it out, rolled out each section, then cut each section into strips and rolled the strips out. It was a lot of work and the pasta still ended up slightly thicker than I wanted it to be, but this batch was much better than the first. I have a tall kitchen table, and I’m an average height, but even kneeling on one of the chairs didn’t give me enough leverage to roll the dough out as thin as it should have been.

I’ve only made pasta one other time, and that was a few years ago when I made gnocchi, which is a long process, but completely worth it. For this recipe, making pasta by hand was more trouble than it was worth. Unless you have a pasta maker, I’d recommend using store-bought pasta. However, if you’re feeling ambitious, I’ve included the instructions to make linguine.

BLT Linguine is easy to make for a weeknight dinner. Instead of sauce, it calls for cream cheese, which might be off-putting to some, but it works. For a lower-fat version of this recipe, Hirsch recommends substituting Greek-style yogurt for the cream cheese and prosciutto for the bacon.

Ingredients
10 slices smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bunch scallions, whites and light green sections, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 12-ounce package fresh linguine, or one recipe linguine (below)
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into small chunks
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. While the water heats, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the scallions and tomatoes, then sauté for 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the mixture to a bowl, draining any excess fat.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1⁄4 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the saucepan.

Add the cream cheese and half of the reserved cooking water to the pasta. Toss until the cheese is melted and forms a creamy sauce.

Add three-quarters of the bacon and tomato mixture, then toss again. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more of the reserved cooking water. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Divide the pasta among four plates, then top each serving with some of the remaining bacon and tomato mixture.

Linguine
2 cups flour
3 eggs

Knead eggs into flour until ball of dough forms. Put bowl over ball of dough and let rest for 30 minutes. Roll dough into a thin sheet and cut into strips. Put strips of pasta into a pot of salted, boiling water.