For the salad:
1 head romaine lettuce, thinly sliced (about 6 cups) this is even good with a mixture of greens and spinach
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped, or cherry tomatoes
4 slices white bread
1 tablespoon butter
For the bacon:
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed in a bag with a mallet, or coffee grinder
6-8 strips center-cut bacon
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
For the dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons tomato jam or you can use maple syrup, I love the tomato jam version....(see this link for Tomato Jam...http://mygardnerguy.blogspot.com/2011/10/tomato-jamgreat-for-appetizers-and.htm )
3 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the lettuce, onion and tomatoes in a large bowl; set aside.
Start out: Cutting the bread into crouton-size cubes. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and toast, tossing, until golden, about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Make the bacon: Mix the brown sugar, paprika, lemon zest and crushed pepper in a small bowl. Add the bacon and press to coat on both sides. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; place the thyme sprigs on the parchment paper, then lay a strip of bacon on top of each sprig. Bake until the bacon is caramelized and crisp, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet. Cut the bacon into bite-size bits using scissors; add to the bowl with the lettuce. Discard the thyme.
Make the dressing: Whisk the mayonnaise, syrup or jam, mustard and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the dressing to the salad and toss. (This is enough dressing for the whole salad, but you can use less if you want a less wet salad.) Sprinkle the croutons on top and eat.
Additional notes: Sometimes I will use additional seasonings on my croutons, like a small portion of the mixture used on the bacon, I often grind up sun dried tomato and add it to the mixture of seasoning. I also have use in place of fresh thyme 1 tsp of ground thyme and instead of cooking on a baking sheet I prefer just mixing the mixture of dry ingredients in with the bacon as it is cooking in a skillet.... both ways are delicious.
Also I save my odds and ends of breads, meaning left over hot dog buns, hamburger buns, the heals to a
loaf of bread...freeze them and save for making croutons.