I do miss having really nice, crisp, fresh salads to order in restaurants.
Here in England, salads are usually a small, dinky thing with one or two tomato slices flanked by a couple thin cucumber rings and just a slice of red onion on a small bed of greens (usually arugula) topped with …. nothing. I get that vinegar and oil are popular toppings, as is salad cream – which is something akin to mayo that you are to smear on your greens (I have yet to be impressed by that one) but getting actual dressings in the way we are accustomed to in the States is a rare occasion. In fact, I am aware of all the restaurants that actually offer some kind of dressing that is neither oil & vinegar or salad cream, for their house or side salads within two hours of my house.
That’s a lot of restaurants – including pubs!!
Of course, this list excludes any “artisan salads” like Caesar or some other salad that dictates it’s own unique dressing.
That being said, sometimes you just crave a really nice salad! It had been a really long time since I have had a cobb salad and I spotted one while skimming through a recent issue of Food & Wine magazine and decided that would be a perfect dinner! Especially since we were having a fairly hot spell! We had the windows open all day and night, had fans going in all the rooms we were occupying as we moved around the house, and tried to use hot water, the stove and the oven as little as possible. Even Patella couldn’t stand to be in the house, but would lounge around the yard, sticking to the cool, shady patches of grass as the sun moved throughout the day. Mei even had a couple of those “naked” days where she would have either just a diaper on, or just a diaper and a really thin tank top.
And we were going all out with this salad. I wanted it HUGE and decked out with all the toppings! We dressed it with Dorie Greenspan’s Everyday Vinaigrette (3 TBS olive oil, 1 TBS dijon mustard, 1 TBS red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, shaken until emulsified and chilled for use) and enjoyed picking out all of our toppings. It made for a filling and cool meal on an otherwise sweltering summer day with no A/C – in fact, shopping for the toppings was a really cool experience, since the produce section of the grocery store stays pretty chilly! We lingered there and hurried home for a great salad! This made plenty enough that we had leftovers for lunch the next day – alongside some tall glasses of sun tea? The perfect end to a perfect summer day!
- cherry tomatoes, halved
- cucumbers, sliced and quartered
- bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
- 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
- 1 avocado, ripened and cubed
- blue cheese, crumbled
- 2 chicken breasts, cooked & cubed
- 1 head of romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
- 1 head of butter lettuce, roughly chopped
- vinaigrette (recipe above) or other dressing
- salt & pepper to taste
First, cook your bacon to your liking – we like ours extra crispy for these occasions.
Second, cook your chicken to your liking. We alternate between pan frying the chicken breasts with fresh lemon squeezed over top and a touch of white wine to baking the chicken breasts for about twenty minutes at 350F, rubbed all over with any blend of spices or simply salt and pepper, to your liking. Slice and cube your chicken as you prefer.
Prepare all your veggies as indicated.
Toss the two greens together until evenly mixed, then toss with the vinaigrette. Split the greens between serving bowls, then top with as much of each of the rest of the ingredients as desired.
We serve our salads with even more vinaigrette drizzled over the top, leaving a dish of the vinaigrette with a spoon on the table in case you find forkfuls that need a bit more of the dressing.