Friday, October 23, 2009

Spice up your salad

I grew up eating the same salad time and time again: iceberg lettuce, chopped carrots, tomatoes, and cucumber, Bacos, and Italian dressing. It was good, just not terribly exciting. Salad was never a meal in and of was the vegetable side dish, sitting in its little wooden brown bowl in the upper right hand corner of my place setting.

As I got older, I loved trying out new, interesting salads at restaurants, but my "at home" salad got even more boring. Usually it consists of bagged mixed baby greens, balsamic vinaigrette, and yes - still Bacos. (I know Bacos don't even come close to resembling real food, but I figure a tablespoon here and there isn't going to kill me. Nothing beats that salty crunch!)

There's no reason my salads should be so lame, and so I'm making it my goal to break out of my salad rut. One of the salads I love to make is an Italian chopped salad. I based my version on one I used to order all the time at the Pasta Factory, a homey little Italian restaurant by our old apartment in Marina del Rey, CA. After we moved to Phoenix, I craved that salad constantly and so one day I set out to make it. I was quite pleased that it tasted almost exactly like I remembered. Here's what's in it:

Romaine lettuce & hearts, chopped up. Make sure the lettuce is really fresh and crisp. I like to chop it into thin ribbons and then cut the ribbons into 1/2 inch pieces.

Garbanzo beans (I use the canned kind...drained & rinsed)

Shredded mozzarella cheese

Diced tomatoes

Chopped salami (I like to order it from the deli and ask them to slice it thick. Then you can chop it into little cubes.)

Cardini's Italian Dressing (You can use any Italian dressing, but I find Cardini's to be the closest to the dressing I had at the restaurant. I also like that it's emulsified and a little thicker than other Italian dressings, so it coats the lettuce nicely. Oh, and it's dairy free! You should be able to find Cardini dressings in most large grocery stores or health food stores.)

Just mix it all together. You can add as much of each ingredient as you like. I just eyeball it until it looks like there's a good blend of ingredients; ie.: you can easily get a forkful that contains a little bit of everything.

At the restaurant, they always served this alongside a piping hot, crusty loaf of Italian bread and garlic-infused olive oil. In keeping with tradition, I HAVE to eat crusty bread with this salad. I recommend you do the same. :)


  1. sounds so good... I want it for dinner now!! :)

  2. I don't make salads at home - too much effort. But when I order them out, I usually just get meat and cheese with a sprinkling of lettuce, liberally drowning in dressing. :)

  3. Adam, this would be perfect for you then! You can just adjust the rations to 1 part lettuce for every 5 parts salami and mozzarella :)

    Kelly, you should make it. It really is good and kid-friendly too, since the lettuce is all chopped up.