Sunday, June 15, 2014

Spring Chopped Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette

Serving of Chopped Salad with Dressing
Dressed for Dinner

Recipe Inspired by Salad for Dinner

Chopped salads are frequently found on Los Angeles menus, and I can see why. Consisting of hardy fresh vegetables topped with assorted cheeses, meats, and condiments, these wilt-proof salads are perfect in hot weather. As temps top the high 80s in the Santa Cruz mountains—and we get lots of fennel and cabbage in our CSA share—it’s time to get chopping. The idea of chopped salad is that a variety of veggies are cut into a similar size and shape, then goodies like chicken, capers, olives, onion, and cheese are added. A quasi-Mediterranean invention, this salad is usually dressed with an herby vinaigrette. Sturdy ingredients make leftovers stay fresh and crunchy.

Cutting board with thin, even, bite-sized cabbage demo
How to Slice Cabbage for Chopped Salad
Dressing for chopped salad usually contains a lot of oil. Sometimes it separates and the dressing seems oily and flavorless—unless you like straight olive oil flavor on salads. I’ve used a threefold method for improved dressing: reduced the amount of oil by half, did not pre-dress the salad before serving, and used an emulsification method that my husband learned from the Food Channel. This method has two steps: first thoroughly combine all ingredients except the oil with an immersion blender. Second, with the blender running, add the oil slowly in a small stream. For best flavor, I refrigerate the dressing overnight so the components can blend and mellow.

I ground up mixed peppercorns in the dressing, which adds more complex flavor than just black pepper. You can use black, red, or white pepper, or a combination. Diners might want to add a small sprinkle of salt and pepper after dressing their salads. Enjoy this chopped salad and let us know in a comment if you invent a tasty variation.

Serving of undressed salad
Serve Dressing on the Side
Spring Chopped Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Serves about 6

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
¼ cup water
1 medium clove garlic, pressed
¾ tsp. dried tarragon
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground mixed pepper
1 tsp. drained capers
¼ cup olive oil
2 small to medium fennel bulbs
½ small head Napa cabbage
1/3 small head red cabbage
12 oz. grilled chicken breast
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/3 cup whole fresh parsley leaves
2 tbsp. capers, drained
¾ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (2 oz.)

For best results, make the dressing the day before serving.

Put the following into an immersion blender cup and buzz until well blended: red wine vinegar, water, garlic, dried tarragon, salt, freshly ground mixed peppercorns, and 1 tsp. capers. Measure the olive oil into a cup with a spout. Start the immersion blender and slowly add the oil to the dressing while the blender is running.

Pour the dressing into a bottle and refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours. You can use it earlier, but if you allow it extra time, the flavor will be more blended and balanced and components will stay emulsified longer.

Cut fennel bulbs in half and remove core. Slice thinly and consistently, cutting larger pieces in half. You will have about 3 cups.

Slice Napa cabbage into same-slze pieces as the fennel. You will have about 3 cups. Repeat with red cabbage. You will have about 2 cups.

Cut chicken breast into ½ inch cubes. You will have about 3 cups.

Add fennel, Napa and red cabbage, chicken breast, onion, parsley leaves, 2 tablespoons capers, and Parmesan cheese to large salad bowl. Toss to combine ingredients.

Shake bottle of tarragon vinaigrette and serve at the table with the salad. Let diners add a small amount of salt and/or freshly ground black pepper as desired to intensify they flavors.

Large Mixing Bowl with cabbages, fennel, parsley, capers, onion, chicken, and parmesan before tossing
Luscious Fresh Ingredients
Closeup of Dressed Salad
Contrast of Color, Taste and Texture

No comments:

Post a Comment