Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chopped Salad: I Need My LVCS

Make tonight a chopped salad night!

"What is a chopped salad?" you ask... Good question!

A chopped salad is a salad in which all the ingredients have been chopped to be uniform pieces and tossed together. In my opinion, the perfect chopped salad must include a hardy lettuce, lots of fresh vegetables, a robust cheese, and a flavorful salad dressing.

Lettuce: You'll probably want romaine or iceburg. I recommend romaine since iceburg has no real nutritional value. I also like to throw in some spinach for added flavor and nutrition. Don't use too much lettuce, though. You want the salad to be mostly vegetables so be conservative on the lettuce. It's always better to ADD more than to have too much.

Vegetables: It's hard to go wrong. For my salad, I used edamame (soybeans), jicama, corn, red and yellow bell peppers, red onions, yellow onions, blanched carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini.

Cheese: The cheese will honestly make the salad by providing a needed flavor contrast in each bite. Otherwise, you're just eating mixed vegetables. I used Maytag Blue Cheese. This stuff has a cult following; it's like the Maybach of Blue Cheese. It was smooth, rich, creamy, and robust. I think feta, goat, gorgonzola, or a white cheddar would also work well in this salad.

Salad Dressing: Whatever you like. I made a homemade tomato aioli (tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper) that I thought would complement the salad well and mixed it with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Go light on the dressing. A little goes a long way on chopped salads because there are so many flavors in each bite.

Lagniappe: Lagniappe is a creole word with disputed origin and definition. I like the definition I was given by a boutique owner in Canton, Mississippi. He said it means "a little something extra". It usually refers to a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase. For this salad, I added a little something extra by throwing in some canned tuna. But, oh, do I wish I had some sardines on hand!

In summary:
Chopped Salad = Lettuce + Veggies + Cheese + Salad Dressing (LVCS)

  • 3 Romaine hearts
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1/2 - 1 lb of blue cheese
Vegetable Mix
  • 2 carrots, peeled and blanched
  • 1 cup edamame (could substitute black beans or chickpeas)
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized jicama (can substitute 1 large apple)
  • 1/2 small red onion, skin removed
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, skin removed
  • 10-12 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 6 pieces of defrosted eggplant and zucchini frozen mix (Trader Joe's)
Tomato Aioli
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and black pepper
Individually chop the vegetables and try to get all the ingredients the same size. Unless you're serving multiple people, I recommend storing the chopped vegetables in a large sealable container in the refrigerator. That way you'll have a ready supply of vegetables to easily assemble a chopped salad in the days to follow.

For the tomato aioli, combine the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. The prepared tomato aioli can be stored in the refrigerator for about one week.

To assemble the salad (1 serving), use a large bowl. Begin by adding a few leaves of romaine lettuce (chopped) and one handful of spinach (chopped) to the bowl. Add 3 or 4 scoops of the vegetable mix. Add 2 - 3 tablespoons of cheese. Add 2 tablespoons of the tomato aioli along with a splash of balsamic vinegar and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix to combine. Add more veggies/cheese/dressing if needed.

Enjoy with entertainment crackers!