Back in mid-April, I had the chance to journey up to Sonoma and Napa for the day. It was the first time I’d ever been to wine country, and at the top of my places-to-visit list were The Fremont Diner, Rancho Gordo and Oxbow Public Market. That’s right, no wineries! (Though if anyone has winery recommendations, I’ll gladly take them. Next time, there will be wine!)
I’d read about The Fremont Diner in a few magazines, and made it my goal to visit before the start of summer¹. Most recently, it was featured in Sunset’s April 2011 issue which highlighted a handful of farm-to-table restaurants on the west-coast — it’s certainly not your typical diner. Upon arrival at 11 am, there was a line ten-people-deep out the door, and they had already sold out of their smoked meats (not sure if these are gluten-free friendly…) and several shake flavors (no salted caramel, womp womp). (The moral of the story, arrive early!) Anyway, while I hate just having a salad when I go out to eat, that’s what I ordered, along with a fresh strawberry milkshake (you know, to make it a “balanced” meal, yum!). It turned out to be a delicious, satisfying salad, chock full of bacon, grapefruit, avocado and red onion.
When my sucrine lettuce was finally ready to harvest a few days ago, I wanted to make a “special” salad with it. I’d already written about the Cobb and was tempted by a Niçoise. However, I thought it better to save the latter for the height of green bean and tomato season. Plus, with over 95° heat the past few days and no central air conditioning in my apartment, it needed to be something simple and refreshing. A re-creation of the diner’s salad fit the bill.
I am completely in love with the avocado dressing for this recipe; it’s naturally creamy without the addition of mayo or something of the sort. And grapefruit, well, I never thought I’d be one to eat it without a pile of sugar on top, or in a [lettuce-based] salad, with bacon no less. (I guess I’m growing up.) It turns out to be a delightful citrus pairing with the avocado, and a nice change of pace from the usual lime. Do I even need to talk about the bacon? For a vegetarian version, I think a finishing sprinkle of Maldon Smoked Sea Salt would give it the little bit of smokey pizzaz that the bacon adds — to be clear, this is just an untested theory.
Hopefully you enjoy this salad as much as I do — it tastes like summer on a plate, what’s not to love? If you can make it to Sonoma, and are so inclined, check out the diner and let me know what you think!
Summer Salad with Grapefruit, Avocado and Bacon
Heather Sage (inspired by The Fremont Diner, Sonoma, CA)
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 side salads
- 2 whole grapefruit
- 1 – 2 medium-large avocados
- 1 large shallot
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) olive oil
- 2 heads lettuce² (about 1/2 pound washed and trimmed or 16 loosely-packed cups), tear into bite-size pieces
- 4+ slices (about 1/4 pound raw) thick-cut bacon, cooked and cut into 1/2″ strips
- Kosher or Maldon sea salt
- Black pepper, freshly ground
Supreme grapefruit and juice scraps:
If you already know how to supreme citrus, feel free to skip over these instructions. Just make sure to reserve 2 tablespoons of the juice, squeeze the scraps, for the dressing.
Wash grapefruit with hot, soapy water and dry. With a sharp knife (I love my Global GS-5 for this, and most, tasks, though a paring knife works well, too), cut off both ends, slicing only until you hit the fruit; place on one of its ends so it’s nice and non-rolly. Following the curve of the fruit, carefully slice off the peel, leaving none of the bitter pith behind. Pick up grapefruit and carefully cut out the segments by cutting on either side of the membrane separating them. (Don’t stress if there seems to be a lot of fruit left behind, attached to the membrane. It’s not a waste since you’ll juice that part for use in the dressing and to prevent the avocado from turning brown.)
Squeeze the juice from the fan-like membrane with some fruit attached (read: the scraps), and strain using a fine mesh sieve. Reserve 2 tablespoons (28 grams) for the dressing and use any remaining to toss with the cubed avocados (next step).
Do Ahead: These steps can be done the day before you make the salad. Refrigerate grapefruit segments tightly wrapped in a bowl. Store juice in a separate container, stir well before using.
Cube avocado(s) into 1/2″ pieces, coat with any remaining grapefruit juice to prevent browning. Mince enough shallot to yield 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 grams); finely slice the remainder into rings using a mandolin or knife (or finely chop, your call!).
In a small bowl (1 quart) smash enough avocado with a fork to yield 1/4 cup (56 grams or about 1/4 of a large avocado). Stir in reserved 2 tablespoons grapefruit juice and red wine vinegar, along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil until fully emulsified. Stir in minced shallot and check for seasoning; set aside. (Yields 1/2 cup Dressing).
Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time, store tightly wrapped in the fridge. Allow it to come to room temp for about 15 minutes (olive oil solidifies under refrigeration) and whisk well before serving.
In a large bowl, toss together dressing and lettuce; divide between four plates. Scatter grapefruit segments, bacon, remaining avocado and some sliced shallot equally over the top. Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of salt.