BETTER CHOPPED SALADS

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: Chopped salads are often little better than a random collection of cut-up produce from the crisper drawer exuding moisture that turns the salad watery and bland. We wanted lively, thoughtfully chosen compositions of lettuce, vegetables, and perhaps fruit—cut into bite-size pieces—with supporting players like nuts and cheese contributing hearty flavors and textures. Salting some of the vegetables—cucumbers and tomatoes—to remove excess moisture was an important first step. As for the dressing, most recipes we tried called for a ratio of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, but we found that a more assertive blend of equal parts oil and vinegar was far better at delivering the bright, acidic kick needed in salads boasting hearty flavors and chunky textures. We also found that marinating ingredients such as bell peppers, onions, and fruit in the dressing for 5 minutes before adding cheese and other tender components brought a welcome flavor boost.

Pear and Cranberry Chopped Salad

SERVES 4 TO 6

Chopped dried cherries can be substituted for the cranberries.

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice (about 1¼ cups;)
Table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
1 ripe but firm pear, cut into ¼-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
½ small red onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
½ cup dried cranberries
1 romaine heart, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
½ cup pistachios, toasted and chopped coarse
Ground black pepper

1. Combine the cucumber and ½ teaspoon salt in a colander set over a bowl and drain for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk the oil and vinegar together in a large bowl. Add the drained cucumber, bell pepper, pear, onion, and cranberries. Toss and let stand at room temperature to blend the flavors, 5 minutes.

3. Add the romaine, blue cheese, and pistachios and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad

SERVES 4 TO 6

For information on our top-rated brand of feta cheese.

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice (about 1¼ cups;)
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered (about 1½ cups)
Table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
½ small red onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 romaine heart, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
Ground black pepper

1. Combine the cucumber, tomatoes, and 1 teaspoon salt in a colander set over a bowl and drain for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk the oil, vinegar, and garlic together in a large bowl. Add the drained cucumber and tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, onion, and parsley. Toss and let stand at room temperature to blend the flavors, 5 minutes.

3. Add the romaine and feta and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Fennel and Apple Chopped Salad

SERVES 4 TO 6

Braeburn, Jonagold, or Red Delicious apples all work well here. The cheese is sprinkled on the salads after plating because goat cheese tends to clump when tossed.

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice (about 1¼ cups;)
Table salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1½ cups; see photos)
2 apples, cored and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 2 cups; see note)
½ small red onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 romaine heart, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Ground back pepper
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese (about 1 cup)

1. Combine the cucumber and ½ teaspoon salt in a colander set over a bowl and drain for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk the oil and vinegar together in a large bowl. Add the drained cucumber, fennel, apples, onion, and tarragon. Toss and let stand at room temperature to blend the flavors, 5 minutes.

3. Add the romaine and walnuts and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the salad among individual plates; top each with some goat cheese and serve.

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