Griddled Little Gem Lettuces with Avocado and Bacon Salad
Portion/Yield:Serves 4 as a starter or an accompaniment
This salad reminds me of my childhood and my family. Every time I taste avocado it transports me back to really good times spent with my parents around their dining table. The taste of a delicious ripe avocado is rich and creamy and reminds me of home so much.
My grandparents had two very large avocado trees in their garden and these fellas were very tall. Each year my grandfather would harvest the avocados, and each family (six families) used to get their ‘share’. The avocados were treated with utmost respect and in our household my father used to be in charge of looking after them. To ripen the avocados, dad used to wrap them each in newspaper and then place each one into a clean sock. They were then carefully placed amongst his pants and socks at the back of his wardrobe (where it was cool and dark) and left to ripen slowly. Dad would check them regularly and they would finally make their appearance once they were ripe and ready to eat.
Harvesting the avocados was a serious event for us. There were only three of us in our family, but we made sure that we each got our own fair share! It makes me chuckle now, but believe me, it was a serious event back then. The respect that mum and dad showed to avocados has made me treat them with the same respect to this very day. Dad was a fussy eater so his food had to be plain, and the only way he enjoyed avocado was by seasoning it with plenty of salt and pepper. Mum and I liked a bit of lemon juice, but that was the extent of the extravagance back then. A real sense of occasion! I loved the importance of fresh avocados to my family and I still love their specialness today.
For me, bacon and avocado is a natural match. When you have two ingredients that each have a strong flavour, it really doesn’t need much else to make a great dish. I have added the barbecued Little Gem lettuces to this recipe because I love the taste of them. The dressing is fantastic because you can taste both the avocado and the bacon. It’s simply wow and delicious and I hope you’ll love it too!
Ingredients & Method
For the salad
- 250g smoked streaky bacon rashers
- 2 Little Gem lettuces
- 2 medium ripe avocados
- juice of ½ lemon
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the avocado and bacon dressing
- 2 cooked rashers smoked streaky bacon (use 2 of the cooked rashers from above, plus keep all the fat from the cooked bacon), chopped
- 25g Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- leftover avocado trimmings (from the salad above – see method)
- 100ml sunflower oil
Preheat the barbecue to medium-hot.
Prepare the salad first, as some of the components are required to make the dressing.
Preheat the grill to medium, lay the bacon rashers in a single layer over a baking tray and grill the bacon for about 8 minutes or until golden brown and crispy all over, turning once. Remove from the heat, then drain and reserve all the fat (as you need this for the dressing). Roughly chop all the cooked bacon into strips or pieces. Set the bacon pieces and reserved fat aside at room temperature.
Wash the Little Gem lettuces and cut them in half, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the lettuce halves, cut-side down, over a medium-hot barbecue (making sure the barbecue isn’t too hot, otherwise the lettuces will burn quickly) and cook for 5–8 minutes or until golden bar marks appear. Turn them over and barbecue on the reverse side for another 5 minutes or so. Remove the cooked lettuces to a plate and set aside until the dressing is made. This dish is served at room temperature rather than either hot or chilled.
Cut each avocado in half lengthways, then remove the stone and skin. Cut 2 of the halves into slices, then, using a melon baller, cut 2 largish balls from each of the remaining avocado halves to make 4 balls in total. Place the avocado balls and slices on a large plate, then drizzle over the lemon juice. The remaining flesh (trimmings) from the avocado halves used for creating the balls will be used for the dressing.
To make the dressing, measure all the ingredients into the jug of a hand-held stick blender and season to taste with salt and pepper, then blend together until very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. (See Cook’s Notes for how to store any leftover dressing.)
To serve the salad, spoon some of the dressing onto each serving plate, then arrange the avocado slices and balls (1 ball per plate) on the plates and season with salt and pepper. Cut each barbecued lettuce in half and serve 2 quarters on each plate (if you cut the lettuces into quarters before cooking, they may fall apart, plus they are more difficult to manage on a barbecue). Scatter the bacon pieces over the top, then drizzle over a little more dressing to taste, if you like. Serve immediately with crusty bread or as an accompaniment at a barbecue with cooked chicken, pork or kebabs or other barbecued meat.
Any leftover dressing keeps well in a covered jar or squeezy bottle in the fridge for up to a week and can be drizzled over other salads, such as a rocket or cos/romaine lettuce salad.
If you prefer to cook the lettuces using a griddle pan rather than a barbecue, this method is equally delicious and effective. Heat a ridged griddle pan over a high heat until hot, then griddle the lettuce halves as above for the same cooking time, turning them once during cooking. Continue with the rest of the recipe and serve as above.