Classic Chopped Salad with Delicious Lemony Vinaigrette Dressing…



This is the plain beginning of something really wonderful - Chopped Salad. First... chop  one freshly washed, drained and chilled head of iceberg lettuce into 1/3 to 1/2 inch bite sized pieces...
This is the plain beginning of something really wonderful – Chopped Salad. First… chop  one freshly washed, drained and chilled head of iceberg lettuce into 1/3 to 1/2 inch bite sized pieces…
 

Today, for some odd reason, I had ‘chopped salad’ on the brain. It brought to mind a little restaurant visit from my childhood…

When I was quite little, my friend and her family took us all out for dinner at a very fancy restaurant.

Of all the luxurious specialities on the thick, rich, leather and parchment menu, I could only read one item – Chopped Salad.

So, what could I do? Order A La Extraordinaire WhatCouldThisPossiblyBe and get pickled liver on a stick that I would be forced to finish?

Well, at least I knew that I could manage a chopped salad, for gosh sakes. Of course, I had little expectations that this would be enjoyable.  Chopped Salad? Something a rabbit might like.

Certainly I would receive lettuce (edible), dressing, (also edible), chopped into bits for convenience, just for kids. I would survive.

So! The meal progressed, and we were brought small crisp toasts with whipped butter and olive oil. Delicious. Then my salad arrived.

It was a huge affair with flesh colored bean balls (garbanzos), a mini black football of an olive, a red crown of chopped tomatoes, chunks of salami and small chopped strips of white cheese with a bed or intriguingly crisp and glistening chunks of cold pale and deep green lettuces. Not bad at all!

Here we've created a chopped salad with baby greens. Chopping and tossing with dressing allows for slight wilting. So easy to eat! And, enjoy. : )
Here we’ve created a chopped salad with baby greens. Chopping and tossing with dressing allows for slight wilting. So easy to eat! Easy is enjoyable. : )
 

It was the dressing that was most stunning. Tangy bright, lemony tart, it filled my senses with a unique with a unique and addictive aroma and flavor.

It was yummy. 

Everything was mixed together in perfect bit sized pieces for easy eating, and each bite was perfectly drenched with the vinaigrette.

Now mind you… I didn’t like salami. But it was very fine sausage with salty pepperyness that left a nice aftertaste. The cheese mitigated any bite to my sensitive kid’s palate and was buttery rich.

To this day, I love chopped salad. But, wherever I’ve had it, whoever has prepared it, has not been able to reproduce the original taste from my childhood memories. Until now…

Only after much thought I believe I have perfected the recipe. 

A big secret is in the vinegar – it must be a high quality wine vinegar that’s rich with flavor and has a fresh scent. I’m sure the restaurant used a very nice variety.

Simplicity itself - chopped organic Romaine lettuce. It's a nice switch from iceberg lettuce. A little tougher, chewier, less crisp. But, very nourishing!
Simplicity itself – chopped organic Romaine lettuce. It’s a nice switch from iceberg lettuce. A little tougher, chewier, less crisp. But, very nourishing!
 

Another secret is adding a bit of lemon zest. This adds the merest tad of a lemony touch. Then, you must use kosher salt. I think that Himalayan salt also has a special mildness and sweetness that works so well. But, it’s extremely pricey.

Finally, the dressing must use a fine, delicate vegetable or olive oil. Fine restaurants use the lightest freshest oil.

The lighter and more delicate the oil, the better the dressing. Perhaps a teaspoon of walnut oil added is a magic ingredient as well. A dash of mustard powder and freshly ground pepper is all you finish up with.

When you whip together your vinaigrette with the secret ingredients above and then toss into your salad, your ordinary chopped salad becomes the stuff of dreams… and rivals my childhood restaurant. 

Nothing beats iceberg lettuce for chopped salads. Just the right crispness and sweet mild flavor. Toss in fine fresh basil threads and some romaine. Perfect.
Nothing beats iceberg lettuce for chopped salads. Just the right crispness and sweet mild flavor. Toss in fine fresh basil threads and some romaine. Perfect.
 

It helps to use the crispest fresh organic iceberg lettuce nicely chilled. And, sweet organic deep red ripe tomatoes, a bit of minced white onion, sprinkle of freshly minced basil, tiniest dash of minced fresh garlic, threads of romaine for perfect color, buttery whole milk mozzarella grated or cut fine, marinated garbonzo beans, and your meat of choice.

THAT is what chopped salad is all about. Oh – it’s absolutely crucial to cut your salad into 1/3rd to 1/2 inch bite size pieces. 

No need to twist and stuff large pieces of lettuce into your cheeks. You’re not a hamster!

Spoon and eat! Deee – lectable.

Marinating your garbanzo beans is a good trick. Make sure you soak overnight in the fridge in olive oil, wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, oregano and your favorite herbs.

If you add fresh hot French bread right from the oven, you will have the heart of everyone present.

For the men, just make sure you pile on the genoa salami sausage… that’s all they need. : ) Note: Be sure to get humanely raised natural nitrate free sausage. If you have a Trader Joes, they stock natural sausage although no claim of humaneness is on the packaging. Yes, I read every ingredient label. : )

As for me, I forego the meat if possible. And definitely will work hard to avoid meats with nitrates. Nitrate free is a real plus.

A bit of egg can be magic. Here are some additional topping ideas that can be added as desired:

Cucumber, Pepperoncini, Anchovies, Roast Pork, Mushrooms, Capers, Pimentoes, Roasted Chopped Vegetables, Fresh Red, Green, Yellow or Orange Peppers, Tuna, Salmon, Turkey, Chicken, Red Onions, Scallions, Shaved Parmesan or Romano, Roasted Garlic or Onions.

By the way… the only thing I left on my plate was the little football of an olive. After all, they’re only to stick on the end of your pinky and wear around town until it falls off…

: )

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COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS : )
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Tue Mar 03 11:32:51 2009 From Dunedin, Florida

Hi!

Many thank yous for all your great stuff!

I read your articles which remarks of the wonders of iceberg lettuce in salad making.

(UPDATE: 1:07 AM 3/1/2009 – Classic Chopped Salad)

Here’s my take on things and some cool info too.

Iceberg as we know it today was developed as a (pre-refrigerated box car era) shippable long shelf life solution by the commercial produce industry in the 1920’s, shipped on trains from California to all parts of US. The trains were covered with ice and the box cars looked like traveling icebergs, thus the name – wow – can you imagine? It still ships and stores nicely, which is the main reason it still enjoys popularity in the US to this day. (The distrubutors enslave us at will.) It has little nutrition and taste and is widely deplored by knowing chefs. It’s best used for its crunchy texture when combined with other lettuces that have better nutritional value and tastiness.

Here is a little science to firm up what you might still think is just my emotional opinion:

Question: What is the nutritional value of iceberg and romaine lettuce?

One cup of iceberg lettuce:

8 calories
0.5 gram protein
0.7 gram fiber
10 mg calcium
78 mg potassium
1.5 mg vitamin C
16 mcg folate
13.3 mcg of vitamin K
164 mcg beta carotene
152 mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin

One cup of romaine lettuce has:

8 calories
0.58 gram protein
1 gram fiber
16 mg calcium
116 mg potassium
11.3 mg vitamin C
64 mcg folate
48.2 mcg vitamin K
1637 mcg beta carotene
1087 mcg of lutein + zeaxanthin.

The Romaine lettuce is a better choice.

Of course this is found to be true with not just Romaine, but any of the darker colored, leafy varieties of lettuces.

Some lettuces (especially iceberg) have been specifically bred to remove the bitterness from their leaves. These lettuces have a high water content with very little nutrient value.

Lactucarium (or “Lettuce Opium”) is a mild opiate-like substance that is contained in all types of lettuce. Both the Romans and Egyptians took advantage of this property eating lettuce at the end of a meal to induce sleep…

Zzzzzzzz….

======================================================

Certainly I would receive lettuce (edible), dressing, (also edible), chopped into bits for convenience, just for kids. I would survive.

So! The meal progressed, and we were brought small crisp toasts with whipped butter and olive oil. Delicious. Then my salad arrived.

It was a huge affair with flesh colored bean balls (garbanzos), a mini black football of an olive, a red crown of chopped tomatoes, chunks of salami and small chopped strips of white cheese with a bed or intriguingly crisp and glistening chunks of cold pale and deep green lettuces. Not bad at all!

It was the dressing that was most stunning. Tangy bright, lemony tart, it filled my senses with a unique with a unique and addictive aroma and flavor.

It was yummy. 

Everything was mixed together in perfect bit sized pieces for easy eating, and each bite was perfectly drenched with the vinaigrette.

Now mind you… I didn’t like salami. But it was very fine sausage with salty pepperyness that left a nice aftertaste. The cheese mitigated any bite to my sensitive kid’s palate and was buttery rich.

To this day, I love chopped salad. But, wherever I’ve had it, whoever has prepared it, have nott been able to reproduce the original taste from my childhood memories. Until now…

Only after much thought Ibelieve I have perfected the recipe. 

A big secret is in the vinegar – it must be a high quality wine vinegar that’s rich with flavor and has a fresh scent. I’m sure the restaurant used a very nice variety.

Another secret is adding a bit of lemon zest. This adds the merest tad of a lemony touch. Then, you must use kosher salt. I think that Himalayan salt also has a special mildness and sweetness that works so well. But, it’s extremely pricey.

Finally, the dressing must use a fine, delicate vegetable or olive oil. Fine restaurants use the lightest freshest oil.

The lighter and more delicate the oil, the better the dressing. Perhaps a teaspoon of walnut oil added is a magic ingredient as well. A dash of mustard powder and freshly ground pepper is all you finish up with.

When you whip together your vinaigrette with the secret ingredients above and then toss into your salad, your ordinary chopped salad becomes the stuff of dreams… and rivals my childhood restaurant. 

It helps to use the crispest fresh organic iceberg lettuce nicely chilled. And, sweet organic deep red ripe tomatoes, a bit of minced white onion, sprinkle of freshly minced basil, tiniest dash of minced fresh garlic, threads of romaine for perfect color, buttery whole milk mozzarella grated or cut fine, marinated garbonzo beans, and your meat of choice.

THAT is what chopped salad is all about. Oh – it’s absolutely crucial to cut your salad into 1/3rd to 1/2 inch bite size pieces. 

No need to twist and stuff large pieces of lettuce into your cheeks. You’re not a hamster!

Spoon and eat! Deee – lectable.

Marinating your garbanzo beans is a good trick. Make sure you soak overnight in the fridge in olive oil, wine vinegar, minced garlic, salt, oregano and your favorite herbs.

If you add fresh hot French bread right from the oven, you will have the heart of everyone present.

For the men, just make sure you pile on the genoa salami sausage… that’s all they need. : )

As for me, I forego the meat if possible. And definitely will work hard to avoid meats with nitrates. Nitrate free is a real plus.

A bit of egg can be magic. Here are some additional topping ideas that can be added as desired:

Cucumber, Pepperoncini, Anchovies, Roast Pork, Mushrooms, Capers, Pimentoes, Roasted Chopped Vegetables, Fresh Red, Green, Yellow or Orange Peppers, Tuna, Salmon, Turkey, Chicken, Red Onions, Scallions, Shaved Parmesan or Romano, Roasted Garlic or Onions.

By the way… the only thing I left on my plate was the little football of an olive. After all, they’re only to stick on the end of your pinky and wear around town until it falls off…

: )

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