The first time I learned about a chopped salad, it was because of Wolfgang Puck. I don’t know if this is fact or fiction, but in my cooking lifetime, he was the chef with whom I first associated the concept of a chopped salad. Coarsely chopped deliciousness, topped with a vinaigrette. Oh, and with cheese!
I only have only one of his cookbooks; he wasn’t a chef I admired greatly, but I didn’t have anything against him, either. He popularized pizzas way back when, and was one of the first to fuse cuisines, like French and Asian.
Once on our way to Hawaii, my family spent the night in Los Angeles, and we went to Spago for dinner, which was his first restaurant. And that’s where I had my first chopped salad. For reasons unbeknownst to me, that restaurant closed, so I feel lucky to have had that dining experience. But he still has restaurants everywhere, endorses products, and seems to be pretty active on television as well. So bravo to him for his tenacity!
So, what is a chopped salad? The one I remember having was crunchy, because of endive and crispy salad greens. Plus it contained lots of different similarly-sized pieces of vegetables, either fresh or blanched, and also feta cheese crumbles. It’s the perfect salad to play with, because the ingredient options are basically endless.
So for my chopped salad today, I’m using endive, radicchio, raw zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and gruyere, for a more chewy cheese option than feta.
For my vinaigrette, I’m including parsley and basil. Easy and fresh. A perfect salad for late spring and summer.
A Chopped Salad
Inspired by Chef Wolfgang Puck
Romaine lettuce, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, because those are the highest quality in existence right now, sliced in half
Apple cider vinegar
Dollop of Greek yogurt, if you want a creamy vinaigrette
Fresh garlic cloves
To make the salad, toss all of the ingredients into a serving bowl. I have not listed an exact recipe, because the ratio of vegetables is completely up to you.
I’ve had chopped salads at restaurants, where the ingredients were very finely chopped. And those were good as well. You just don’t get the same crunch as you do with larger pieces. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
If you are throwing this salad together ahead of time, I would add the tomatoes at the last minute, or just leave them whole.
For the vinaigrette: In a small blender, add an equal amount of vinegar as olive oil, the garlic, herbs, and salt. Blend, and then add the desired amount of yogurt. Blend again until smooth.
Just before serving, pour in the desired amount of vinaigrette and toss the salad. I’m constantly writing “desired amount” because I like very vinegary vinaigrettes, and I also like a lot of vinaigrette in my salads. Many people do not!
Save any remaining vinaigrette and refrigerate.
note: Think about all of the fun ingredients that can be used in a chopped salad. Protein like chicken cubes, pieces of shrimp, or avocado. Different veggies, of course, croutons, and even chick peas. You could also make a vinaigrette containing goat cheese, so you get that flavor, without the crumbles. So many choices!