Friday, February 19, 2010

My Chopped Salad

By the end of February, I'm ready to be done with winter. I need some sunshine and a break from kale, potatoes and other wintry vegetables (although I do love them so). It's the perfect time for a large composed salad. I'm somewhat of a salad freak. When I would come back to the States while living in China, my dad would come downstairs at 11 PM to find me eating enormous bowls of fresh mesclun greens drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and cracked Tellicherry pepper. No ice cream for this foreigner.

I've used my favorite ingredients for this chopped salad, but really, it's a recipe that lends itself well to improvisation. If you don't eat chicken, substitute chickpeas. No interest in bacon? A little chopped ham is delicious too. Swap feta for the blue cheese and add some kalamata olives for a Mediterranean twist. Also, you don't have to be fussy with the presentation. I normally would just throw each ingredient into a large bowl as I chopped and then toss them all together with the dressing before serving.

A note on the meaty products I used: although eating tomatoes in February is not very eco-conscious, I do try to be aware of where my animal products come from (thank you, Jonathan Safran Foer for scaring me into ethical omnivore submission). The eggs come from heritage breed chickens raised up the road from my parents in the Berkshires. The bacon is from Applegate Farms. The chicken breast comes from little Amish chickies in Lancaster, PA. The latter two were both purchased at Whole Foods. You can truly taste the differences, especially with the eggs and chicken.

My Chopped Salad
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 poached chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 medium sized tomato, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 c. crumbled blue cheese, such as Roquefort
  • 1/2 English cucumber, chopped
  • 2 extra crispy bacon strips, finely chopped
  • 10 romaine lettuce leaves, cut crosswise into 1 inch strips
For the dressing:
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 t Dijon mustard
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 T sherry vinegar (red wine works too)
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate cup, mix salad dressing ingredients together with a fork. Drizzle dressing over salad, toss well, and serve.

Some cooking tips:

To hard boil an egg: place eggs in a small sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat and let boil vigorously for 1 minute. Remove pan from heat, cover tightly, and set aside for 12 minutes. Drain eggs in cold water, then peel. If you would like some gently and amusing hand holding for your first try, check out this: (Thank you, Abby!)

To poach a chicken breast: in a shallow pan, place 2 inches of cold water. Add the chicken and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat and cover pan with lid. After about 4 minutes, turn breast over and cook for 4 more minutes. Check for doneness by slicing into the breast since you will be chopping it up anyway! Cooking times will vary slightly depending on the thickness of the breast.

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