Hey everybody – I’m home from Florida, and this hearty chopped salad with a spicy tomato vinaigrette is just what the doctor ordered after more than a week of vacation eating. (I’m looking at you, onion strings…) Healthy and simple is my mantra for the week. Don’t get me wrong, though, I ate like a queen with my Dad and his wife Kathy, but now I need to get back to reality. I think a chopped salad like this is just about as far as you can take a salad and still call it a salad – it’s downright loaded. But it’s definitely healthy, and figure friendly, not to mention fork friendly!
When a chopped salad is good and fresh, it’s one of the best meals around. And making it yourself can turn what is sometimes a blah cafeteria staple into a really spectacular meal. The key is to use good fresh ingredients, (duh) and lots of them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a few shortcuts…I used a rotisserie chicken, canned chickpeas, and a handful of olives from my supermarket’s olive bar to round out my array of chopped goodies. The bacon can crisp and the eggs boil while you are prepping the rest.
Sometimes with salads of this type the chopped part looks great and then the lettuce underneath is a namby pamby iceberg. I found a new organic Deep Green lettuce blend from Earthbound Farms that I used as my base here. Then I went to town with the chopped stuff. Between the chicken, bacon, egg, chickpeas and feta cheese, there’s plenty of protein in here to qualify as dinner.
The rest is chosen for flavor, color and texture. And the best part is that you can assemble it ahead of time and keep it refrigerated, it won’t wilt.
You know I love my salad dressings. They are easily as important as the salad itself. This one is a new favorite. I took a medium ripe tomato and whizzed it up in my small food processor. Then I blended it with some harissa paste, which is a Tunisian spicy red pepper paste (think of it as Middle Eastern ketchup.) It adds a depth of color and flavor, but you can also use regular tomato paste if you don’t like it spicy. Some good sherry vinegar, olive oil, and a hit of salt and pepper is all it needs. It has a beautiful color and striking flavor.
I grilled an ear of corn on a super hot grill pan and gave it little turns as I chopped my veggies. It adds a nice starchy sweetness and a little bit of charred flavor. You can swap out the rest of the elements according to what you have or like. Black or white beans can replace the garbanzos. Goat cheese can replace feta, etc.
What You Will Need
- 4 handfuls of your favorite lettuce mix
- 2 eggs, boiled, peeled and chopped
- 1'2 cup canned chick peas, rinsed and dried
- 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
- 6 strips bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
- 1/2 cup cubed feta cheese
- 1 cup chopped cooked rotisserie chicken
- 1 ear of corn, grilled and kernels removed
- 1 small Persian cucumber thinly sliced
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1 handful of Greek olives
- 1 cup halved small cherry tomatoes
- a few basil leaves
- 1 small to medium ripe red tomato (to yield about 1/3 cup puree)
- 1 Tbsp harissa paste (or tomato paste)
- 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
- 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- Lay the lettuce out onto a wide round salad bowl.
- Top with all the ingredients, laying out each one in its own section.
- Scatter the basil leaves over the top.
- To make the dressing, give the tomato a rough chop and puree it in a small food processor.
- Whisk in the harissa or tomato paste, the vinegar, and the olive oil until blended. Add the salt and black pepper to taste.
The above amounts are just guidelines, feel free to adjust them to your liking.
I tucked in a few basil leaves for flavor. The salad hit the spot, and definitely is not your cafeteria’s chopped salad. I think this would be a great choice to bring to a barbecue or picnic because as salads go, it’s fairly study, and beautifully impressive.
I’m glad to be back, but it’s tough being so far from family. These visits aren’t nearly enough…but I do always come home excited to get back to my kitchen and bring you fun recipes inspired by my trip. Have a wonderful Friday everyone!