Recently, my five-year-old son, Dean, has developed a taste for salad. Well, he has a taste for homemade ranch salad dressing. He now wants salad for every meal.
When we grilled hamburgers Sunday afternoon with my in-laws, Dean spotted the washed lettuce and sliced tomatoes and immediately wanted a salad. Instead, he had a burger topped with lettuce and doused in ranch dressing. He ate every bite.
I love salads. I love them so much, when Dean answered a questionnaire about me for Mother’s Day, he said my favorite food was salad. Of course, he also said the activity we enjoyed doing together was washing dishes, so some of his answers may be subjective to say the least.
But the salad comment, yes, I could eat a fancy salad every day – with croutons. You can’t eat a salad without croutons, which is my favorite part.
I read an article about the “1,200 calorie salad” in a magazine a few years back which stated some popular restaurant salads could have more calories that a large fast food cheeseburger. In fact, one of my favorite salads in the world, a chicken club salad with hot bacon dressing from an iconic Memphis restaurant probably topped 1,200.
Not all salads are healthy. For example, an antipasto salad (antipasto means “before a meal”) isn’t exactly low in fat with its pepperoni and salami and various cheeses. Of course, antipasto is pretty rich, so overeating that salad is not much of an issue.
This Antipasto Tortellini Pasta Salad is an entire meal in one, and it is perfect eaten on a summer’s day outdoors.
Antipasto Tortellini Pasta Salad
20 ounces frozen cheese tortellini
1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 1/2 cups mixed pitted olives
1 cup (5 ounces) chopped pepperoni
1 cup (5 ounces) chopped salami
1 cup mozzarella pearls
1 cup (5 ounces) chopped sharp provolone cheese
3/4 cup sliced roasted red peppers
1/4 red onion, diced
8 whole pepperoncini peppers, optional
6 fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, to taste
Cook the tortellini in salted water according to package instructions, until al dente. Strain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.
Add the tortellini and remaining pasta salad ingredients to a large bowl. Set aside.
In a large jar or blender, combine the dressing ingredients and shake or blend until well-combined. Pour the dressing over the pasta salad and toss to evenly distribute. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
I love Mexican food. I love the taste of cumin and lime together in any form or fashion, so when I had a Mexican Chopped Salad for the first time, I was in love.
I highly recommend enjoying this salad like a dip with tortillas and a side of margarita if you feel inclined. And I think it is best enjoyed when relaxing by a body of water – pool, lake, or ocean.
Mexican Chopped Salad
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon cumin
1 clove garlic finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Taste and add salt if needed
1 medium head romaine lettuce chopped
1 medium bell pepper diced
½ medium red onion diced
½ medium jicama peeled and diced
1 medium zucchini diced
4 medium tomatoes seeded and diced
4 ears corn (or substitute 1 1/2 cups of sweet, tiny frozen corn)
1 1/2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
Tortilla chips or tortilla strips
For the dressing, combine lime juice, honey, cumin garlic and salt.
In a slow, steady stream, add the oils, stirring continuously with a fork or small whisk.
Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.
For the salad, place corn, two ears at a time, in the microwave and cook for 3 1/2 minutes.
Remove from microwave with a hot pad and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
After cooling, cut bottom end of corn off, about 1 1/2 inches from end. Pull back husk and silks (almost all of the silk should easily pull away). Cut kernels from husks and set aside.
Combine corn and other salad ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add dressing and stir to coat all ingredients. Garnish with cilantro leaves, if desired.
Serve with tortilla chips or strips.
My favorite salad is a traditional Cobb salad, with its hardboiled eggs and bacon. It is definitely not a healthy salad unless you hold the bacon, cheese, and dressing, and then it wouldn’t be a Cobb salad.
If you have ever made your own Cobb salad, it takes some effort. There are a lot of moving parts to a Cobb salad. But when it is plated, with its ingredients served in separate strips, there is plate more beautiful.
Traditional Cobb Salad
4 large eggs, boiled and chilled
4 ounces bacon, 4 strips
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, flattened to 1/2-inch thick pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning
Paprika, as needed for seasoning
8 cups romaine lettuce, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup baby tomatoes, cut in half
1 avocado, cut into small pieces or thinly sliced
2 ounces blue cheese
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped green onions
Crack the sides of the eggshell, peel, and cut in half.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 4 minutes on each side.
Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain. Once cooled chop the bacon into smaller pieces.
In the same pan used to fry the bacon, cook the chicken. Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika.
Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a clean plate and allow to cool. Slice or cut chicken into cubes.
Assemble the salad by adding the lettuce, and then top with tomatoes, avocado, blue cheese and chopped chives.
In a medium-sized bowl whisk the red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking briskly and continuously until a thickened dressing is formed.
Add the shallots and whisk to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
Serve with red wine vinegar dressing.