Texture, color and crunch make this classic salad a delightful alternative to mixed greens.
Originally from California and popular on the country club scene, chopped salad is showing up on more menus these days. My guess is its because it goes with just about anything- beef, pork, chicken, seafood or even as a side to a vegetarian entree. It can make an appearance as a side salad for a steak or add grilled chicken to make a quick and healthy entree. The only rule to a chopped salad is that all the pieces of lettuce and other salad ingredients are relatively the same size. Dressings run the gambit from a spicy vinaigrette to a creamy green goddess.
Upscale Steak houses have long offered a chopped salad on their menu. The crunchy texture of the vegetables and creamy dressing is an interesting contrast to the meaty savory steak texture and are often ordered to share with the table.
Making chopped salad at home is easy; all you need is a good cutting board and a sharp knife so you don’t bruise the lettuce. Remove any moisture from the lettuce as it will make the end result soggy. I have reintroduced iceberg lettuce again into my diet because it produces the best crunch for a chopped salad. I find iceberg to be bland and I add romaine to increase the nutritional bang for my lettuce buck and for the additional flavor it provides.
Similar to a Cobb Salad, which also hails from California’s famous and historic Brown Derby Restaurant, the difference is that all of the ingredients are tossed and blended together instead of the vegetables being neatly arranged on top. Go light on the dressing because a little goes a long way and all the flavors will marry together in each glorious bite.
Photograph by the talented Peggy Day
Steakhouse Chopped Salad
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The flavor profile of Chopped salads is endless. Think Asian, Greek and Mexican vegetables for ingredients. Anything goes, just remember to have all the pieces of the salad near the same size.
¼ head Romaine lettuce, chopped
½ head Iceberg lettuce, chopped
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
¼ cup green onions, cleaned and sliced thin
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ red pepper, chopped (3 tablespoons)
1/3 cup reduced fat blue cheese crumbles
½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
¼ cup spicy Pecans (see recipe below)
¼ cup Agave Poppyseed Dressing (see recipe below)
Wash and chop Romaine and Iceberg lettuce and place in large bowl. Chop bacon, tomato, green onion, cucumber and red pepper and add to lettuce and toss. Add blue cheese, peas and spicy pecans and toss again. Drizzle with dressing and toss one more time before serving.
Yields 3 cups
This recipe makes more than you need, but these zesty nuts can be tossed in with just about any salad and a makes a heavenly topping for cooked vegetables.
3 cups pecan pieces
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
Roast pecans on a cookie sheet at 350F for 15 minutes. Stir about every 5 minutes. When they start to smell like toasted nuts, remove from oven and set aside.
As nuts are roasting -Melt butter in a small bowl. Mix seasonings in a larger bowl. When nuts are toasted, toss in the bowl with the seasonings and add the butter. Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and let dry for about an hour. (Can be stored for up to a week in a air tight container)
Blue Agave sweetener is made from the Blue Agave plant that thrives in Mexico. Its thin consistency makes a great addition to salad dressing ingredient options. If Agave is not available, substitute Maple syrup.
Yields approximately 2 cups
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of onion, peeled and minced
1/3 cup of agave sweetener
1 cup of canola oil
1 tablespoon Brown mustard
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
In a pint jar with a tight fitting lid, add apple cider vinegar, onion, Agave sweetener, oil, brown, mustard and poppy seeds. Shake vigorously for one minute until dressing mixes and appears creamy
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