Bitter Greens with Manchego and Cranberry Dressing

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Because this is a festive salad, I just had to squeeze it in before the end of 2021. I made it for Thanksgiving, and it’s truly unique. I had no problem making it a second time!

The recipe, from Bon Appetit, is called Bitter Greens with Cranberry Dressing. What initially caught my attention was how pretty the salad is.

It’s a mixture of bitter greens, with parsley, mint, shaved Manchego cheese, glazed pecans, and a lemony cranberry dressing, made with canned cranberry sauce. You can bet that this was the first time I ever bought canned cranberry sauce.

Because of timing, I purchased glazed/candied pecans, even though they are so easy to make. I used really good Manchego cheese, and bought the best bitter greens I could find.

Bitter Greens with Cranberry Dressing

3 tablespoons raw sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 – 14 ounce can whole-berry cranberry sauce
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
12 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
6 heads of green and/or red endive, quartered
2 heads of frisée, torn into similar sizes
4 ounces Manchego, shaved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix raw sugar, maple syrup, and salt in a bowl. Add pecans and toss to coat. Spread pecans out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until sugar is bubbling, 6-8 minutes, then continue to bake 3 minutes longer to allow sugar to caramelized. Let cool; break into small pieces. Or, buy some already glazed pecans.

Whisk cranberry sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, nutmeg, and 5 tablespoons of oil in a small bowl to combine. Season cranberry dressing with salt.

Whisk parsley, mint, vinegar, and remaining 7 tablespoons oil in a large bowl to combine; season herby dressing with salt and pepper. Add endive and frisée to bowl and toss to coat. (I didn’t include the mint because you just never know who likes what!) Do this just before serving, although I don’t mind a little wilting.

Arrange salad on a platter and drizzle some cranberry dressing over. Top with Manchego and candied pecan pieces.

Serve with remaining cranberry dressing alongside.

This salad is incredible. You could make the dressing with leftover cranberry sauce, or simply make a lemon dressing. The combination is spectacular.

Serve with a creamy pasta or crepes for a perfect lunch or light dinner.

A Chopped Salad

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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.

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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
Endive, chopped
Zucchini, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, because those are the highest quality in existence right now, sliced in half
Gruyere

Vinaigrette
Apple cider vinegar
Olive Oil
Dollop of Greek yogurt, if you want a creamy vinaigrette
Fresh garlic cloves
Fresh parsley
Fresh basil
Salt

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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!

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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!