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Chopped Salad: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall

chopped salad

A Chopped Salad shouldn’t be trendy. A chopped salad should be classic. A Cobb Salad is chopped salad perfection. A harmonious blend of roughage and bacon– when chopped together form a more perfect union.

However, not all salads are created equal. Not all salads are able to stand up to the roughshod treatment of a mad man with a mezzaluna (thank God Freddy Krueger didn’t have such a tool).

Can you imagine the mess you’d have on your hands if you used one of those curved two-handled frenzied chopping devices on a delicate Niçoise salad? The pleasure in that sort of salad comes from composing each bite independently. Chopped Salads may be enjoying a resurgence, but that doesn’t mean we should pulverize every salad insight.

That said, I have to admit I do like a good chopped salad. I’m old-fashioned that way. But the ingredients need to be chosen wisely. The secret to making a good chopped salad is to cut the ingredients into chunks that are all about the same size (not too big and not too small). So forget the mezzaluna, it’s far too indiscriminate a tool for this job. I think a good chopped salad is hand-chopped with a chef’s knife. Each ingredient sized to bring out its best characteristics when enjoyed in conjunction with all the other ingredients.

Done properly this leads to another important element– texture. It should be varied. But not so varied that you lose the very simplicity that makes a chopped salad so alluring. As the trend towards the chopped salad increases more places are popping up that specialize in them. Ordering a chopped salad in these places is (according to the New York Times) “like buying a car. You start with a base price that includes a limited number of toppings, usually four or five. After that, each addition costs extra.”

At first, I was intrigued by all the chopped salad mayhem happening at restaurants everywhere. But like every food trend, somewhere along the line, the train jumps the track. Certain ingredients just aren’t suited to a chopped salad. Wet ingredients come to mind– too many wet or soft elements and a chopped salad turns into baby food. So choose bold textures and flavors. Unexpected ingredients can work too. Just not too bold or too unexpected. Popcorn doesn’t need to be chopped into a salad just to get my attention, does it?

Let’s all take a deep breath and remember what we love about this salad. As I said a Cobb Salad is a chopped salad perfected. So whenever I make a chopped salad I don’t stray too far from the original. There is room to update the ingredients, however. I replaced the bacon in this version with fried Spanish chorizo (an idea I stole from my friend Andy Windak). Seasonally sweet persimmons make a nice counterpoint to the spice in the chorizo. You get the idea…

It’s fun to have a theme sometimes too. The theme for my chopped salad is winter, spring, summer, and fall. I was recently at the Hollywood farmers market and I noticed that bitter winter greens, springtime California Hass avocados, warm weather tomatoes, and autumnal persimmons were available– all at the same time. It’s rare to see locally grown produce spanning all the seasons. Even in Southern California. So the theme for my chopped salad was born. GREG

chopped salad ingredients

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall Chopped Salad

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published

The ingredients for this salad can be prepared in advance and stored in separate containers, leaving only the arrangement for the last minute.

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grainy mustard
  • 1 ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 to 3 tablespoon dried oregano (to taste)
  • salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • ½ pound Spanish air dried chorizo (sliced into ¼‑inch rounds)
  • 4 cup mixed baby bitter greens (such as kale and frisee) loosely packed
  • 2 Belgian endive sliced crosswise into ¼‑inch pieces, cores discarded)
  • 1 red onion (peeled, halved & sliced into fine slivers)
  • 3/4 pound grape or cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • ½ pound Monterey Jack (sliced ¼‑inch thick then cut into 1‑inch batons)
  • 2 ripe but firm California Avocados (peeled, pitted and cut into ½‑inch dice)
  • 2 ripe but firm Fuyu persimmons (topped and cut into ½‑inch dice)
  • 1 cup almonds (roughly chopped)

Directions

Combine the vinegar, lemon juice and mustard in a blender. Blend to combine. Then, with the machine running, drizzle in about ½ cup of the oil. Once it emulsifies and becomes very creamy turn off the machine and pour the mixture into a large jar. Add the remaining 1 cup oil and all of the oregano. Secure the lid and shake to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Re-shake just before serving. There will be more vinaigrette than you need for this recipe. The extra may be store covered and refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

Set a clean dry cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches pan fry both sides of the chorizo slices until nicely browned (about 2 minutes per side). Remove from pan and drain them on a paper towel lined plate. Once cooled slice them into equal sized shards. Set aside.

To assemble the salad toss all remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add about ½ cup (more or less to taste) of the prepared vinaigrette and gently toss. Turn the mixture out onto a large serving plate. Top with the fried chorizo slices. Season with more black pepper.