Do you ever get the desire for a particular food that comes out of the blue and just won’t go away? For no apparent reason, simple chopped salad popped into my consciousness last week, and what began as a thought quickly turned into a craving . What I dreamt of was not a dish that I’d had recently eaten and loved, or a recipe that I’d seen. Rather, it was a vision – of vegetables, meat and cheese piled together so that the flavors melded into one another.
There is nothing prettier or tastier than a bright, simple chopped salad. The colors jumbled together are like a painting from an abstract artist with a geometric bent. The vibrant hues and crunch of the vegetables make each bite special, but the overall effect is harmonious and no single ingredient predominates.
This simple chopped salad does take a bit of time to put together. There isn’t a mechanized way to chop all the ingredients into uniform shapes. But when you toss them and add in a vinaigrette dressing, there’s nothing like it. And besides, if you turn on fun music or use the time to think or meditate, your cares will melt away as you pile ingredients in the bowl.
You may well decide to eliminate some ingredients or add others depending on what you have available and what you like. Keep in mind that for the salad to look pretty, you need to stick with ingredients that hold their shape. In other words, soft vegetables like avocados or soft cheeses like brie don’t work well. Grape or cherry tomatoes, even halved or quartered, work better than larger tomatoes diced because the latter tend to fall apart.
Also, vegetables with colors that “bleed”, like cooked beets, tend to turn the whole salad a rather unappetizing color. The whites of hard-boiled eggs work but the yolks tend to get too crumbly. Hard blue cheese works, but not the soft varieties. Of course, ingredients that don’t work in this salad might be splendid in a composed salad, a Salad Nicoise, or a chef’s salad, so don’t despair if you have your heart set on using beets or roasted eggplant.
Simple Chopped Salad
Servings – 4 (about 4 ounces each) Cost – $6-7
- ⅓ cup each of finely diced carrots, celery, cucumbers, red pepper, yellow pepper, grape or small cherry tomatoes, black or Kalamata olives, hard cheese (e.g. gruyere or cheddar) and hard salami or cooked chicken. For a vegetarian version, substitute canned and rinsed or home-cooked garbanzo beans/chick peas for the salami or chicken.
- 2-3 tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
- Cutting board
- 2 Knives – medium/large and small
- Medium-size bowl
- Measuring spoon
- Large spoon (for mixing)
- Dice all of the vegetables, the meat, and the cheese into pieces approximately the size of a pinky nail. The best way is to make long strips about the right size and then cut them horizontally into the desired size pieces. For cucumbers, I cut out most of the center, seeded section. As you cut each vegetable, add it to the bowl. Then add the meat and cheese.
- Finely chop the parsley and set aside.
- Add the vinaigrette dressing to the bowl and mix. Taste, then add salt and pepper to taste. I omitted the herbs in the vinaigrette for this salad but that’s just my taste.
- If the salad is to be eaten immediately, add the parsley and mix it in. If the salad will be eaten hours later, I prefer to keep the parsley separate, refrigerated in a covered plastic or in a clean paper towel, then add it at the last minute. The salad tastes even better if you refrigerate it for a few hours before serving and it’s great the next day.