I like to season each component of this salad individually. Tomatoes need a generous amount of salt, not just a pinch. Olives don't need any. Soft-boiled eggs practically beg for both salt and pepper, while rich avocado slices perk up when splashed with lemon juice. After every ingredient has been nudged toward its best self, a basil-buttermilk dressing unites the whole dish.
This salad is terrific served alongside grilled steak.
Summer-On-A-Platter Salad with Basil Buttermilk Dressing
Serves 4 - 6 as a side
4 thick slices of country-style bread
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
3 large eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 large garlic clove
5 ounces lettuce
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 ripe Hass avocado, peeled and sliced
½ lemon, for squeezing
¼ cup roasted bell peppers
2 - 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
10 pitted Castelvetrano olives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tear the bread into bite-sized pieces. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, swirl in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and then add the bread. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and let cool.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a gentle simmer. Lower in the eggs and cook them for exactly 8 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water, let them cool for a few minutes, then peel and discard the shells.
To make the dressing, combine the buttermilk, basil, and apple cider vinegar in a bowl. Smash the garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt to a smooth paste and add it to the bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in the remaining ¼ cup olive oil. Add a few grinds of pepper, then taste the dressing and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Scatter the lettuce across a large platter. Arrange the tomatoes on one side and generously season them with salt and pepper. Fan out the avocado slices next to the tomato, and season with salt and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Continuing to move across the platter, pile the bell pepper alongside the avocado. Next, arrange the cucumber slices, overlapping them slightly as if they were shingles on a roof, and season generously with salt and a splash of olive oil. Slice the boiled eggs into quarters, place them on top of the lettuce, and season with salt and pepper. Lastly, add the olives to the platter. Serve the croutons in a bowl and the dressing on the side; add as much or as little of each as you like.