Italian Chopped Salad

I know this is totally abnormal and not a very “foodie” thing to admit, but I’ve had a love-hate relationship with salad my whole life.  I just wasn’t a kid who enjoyed vegetables (regardless of how drenched they were in cheese sauce or Dorothy Lynch dressing), and lettuce was at the bottom of my list.  I can’t put my finger on the source of the dislike, except that maybe I came to equate “salad” with “iceberg lettuce.”  Iceberg lettuce has its place, but I think it’s better as an edible garnish on a plate of Mexican food than it is as a base for a great salad.

As an adult who now loves vegetables, my relationship with salad has improved.  Where I get into trouble now is that I just can’t think of it as a meal.  I’ve tried to have a salad with protein and dressing on the side as a restaurant meal when the healthy menu options are lacking, but an hour later, my body is wondering when the real meal is coming.  It’s just never satisfying enough.

I made a salad last night, though, that was incredibly delicious and filling: Italian Chopped Salad from the Colorado Classique cookbook.  (Side note: I love this cookbook so much that I bought it for my mom for Christmas.  We’re going to cook through it together!)  The salad is a terrific combination of hearty, flavorful ingredients like roasted red peppers, olives, tomatoes, sliced meats, cheese, and pine nuts.  The base is romaine (great crunch!) and it’s topped with homemade balsamic dressing.  I made the salad to go with a batch of Ina Garten’s Italian Wedding Soup, but I was so satiated after the salad that I hardly had room for the next course.  Give this one a try as a lunch or dinner salad, or serve smaller portions as a salad course.

Since the recipe isn’t available online, I’ve written it up below.  First, though, I’ll give you a list of my deviations:

  • I toasted the pine nuts for 5 minutes on a baking sheet at 350F instead of toasting them on the stove.
  • I’m not a huge fan of Gorgonzola cheese, so I used Fontina instead.
  • I didn’t use my food processor to make the dressing.  I just combined all the ingredients in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid and shook the heck out of them.  If you use this method, be sure to shake the dressing well right before serving the salad since the ingredients will separate as they sit.

Full disclosure: I took this photo of the salad before I dressed it.  Nothing ruins a food photo faster than brown liquid!

Italian Chopped Salad

Italian Chopped Salad
Serves 6
Prep: Less than 30 minutes | Cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts
1 – 2 red bell peppers
1 pound finely julienned romaine lettuce and field greens
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 cup red grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 tablespoon capers, drained
10 thin slices Soppressata hard salami, sliced in strips
10 thin slices prosciutto ham, sliced in strips

Method:
In a blender or food processor, blend vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth.  With the motor running, slowly add oil and blend until smooth.  Set dressing aside.

To prepare salad, toast pine nuts in a pan until lightly browned; cool.  Char bell peppers over an open flame or under a broiler until blackened on all sides.  Transfer peppers to large bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand 15 minutes.  Peel and seed peppers and cut into strips to yield 1/2 cup.

Just before serving, toss pine nuts and roasted peppers with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, olives, capers, salami, and ham in a large bowl.  Add dressing and toss to coat.

Source: Colorado Classique

TIPS: Go to the deli counter and have them slice some prosciutto for this recipe.  (Make sure you get the prosciutto di Parma if they have it.  It’s pricey by the pound, but you don’t need much and it’s totally worth it.)  I was in a hurry at the grocery store and decided to try the packaged stuff  for the first time.  It’s gross!

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