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Recipe: Iceberg Lettuce Slices

Iceberg Lettuce Slices
With blue cheese dressing, oven-roasted tomatoes, bacon and brioche croutons, Serves 6

We've added the intense flavors of oven-dried tomatoes, bacon, and blue cheese to this classic American salad and introduced additional crunch with elegant brioche croutons. Try to find baby heads of iceberg, which are tender and sweet.

8 ounces applewood-smoked slab bacon
4 heads baby iceberg lettuce (about 9 ounces each)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 pieces Oven-Roasted Tomatoes
Brioche Croutons
Flat-leaf parsley leaves
Blue Cheese Dressing

Cut the bacon into lardons about 1 inch long and 1/2 inch thick. Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat (the water will keep the bacon from crisping as the fat begins to render). Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes. The bacon will color but not become completely crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Remove the outer couple of leaves from each head of lettuce (reserve for another use if desired). Cut out the core end and discard. Cut each head crosswise into 3 rounds. Place the slices on a tray, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the lettuce on a platter. Tuck the tomatoes in and around the lettuce. Sprinkle with the croutons, lardons, and parsley. Spoon some of the dressing over the salad and serve the remaining dressing on the side.

Makes 24 tomato halves

Roasting tomatoes slowly cooks out the moisture and intensifies their flavor. The tomatoes bring a sweet, tangy flavor to meat, fish, and vegetables. Put them in sandwiches, or finely chop them and use them to flavor vinaigrettes. Pencil asparagus are great with a roasted tomato vinaigrette, and so is fresh mozzarella. They're so versatile you can use them as garnish for a rich meat, such as lamb, or in a salad.

12 plum tomatoes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. To peel the tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. With a paring knife, cut out the core of each tomato. Score an X on the bottom of each tomato, extending the cuts about two-thirds of the way up the tomato.

Drop the tomatoes into the water and simmer just until the skins are starting to pull away from the tomato. This may take only a few seconds, depending on the ripeness of the tomato. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, immediately transfer the tomatoes to the ice bath. Remove them as soon as they are cold and peel them.

Cut the tomatoes lengthwise in half and place cut side up on the lined baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil over each one, letting it run into any crevices. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the top and season with salt and pepper.

Put in the oven and cook for 5 to 6 hours, until the tomatoes have shrunk but are still moist. Let cool on the baking sheet.

Transfer the tomatoes to a storage container and pour any oil from the pan over them. The tomatoes can be refrigerated for up to a week.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

These brioche croutons are best served warm, but they can be made ahead and rewarmed before serving.

2 cups 1/4- to 1/2-inch crustless cubes brioche

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the brioche cubes in a single layer on the parchment-lined pan. Toast in the oven for 5 minutes. Turn the croutons and toast for another 5 minutes, or until a rich golden brown. The croutons can be cooled and then stored in an airtight container for up to a week; rewarm them in a low oven before serving.

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup Aioli
1/4 to 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced chives
1 teaspoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced mint
Kosher salt

Put the aioli in a large bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup buttermilk and all the remaining ingredients. The dressing can be used now or refrigerated. Before serving, lift up a spoonful of dressing and pour it back into the bowl — it should run freely. If it is too thick, add additional buttermilk as necessary. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week (the herbs may darken after 1 day).

Stir about 1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese (about 8 ounces), preferably Pt. Reyes, into the buttermilk dressing. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.

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