Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chopped Salad

Sometimes, I steal recipes.  This can happen in a completely innocent way.  For example, I may be perusing a cookbook or cooking magazine in a bookstore, and I stumble upon an enticing photograph or recipe.  The idea may simply stick with me, and lead to my own version of the aforementioned image, visual or verbal.  My previous post is prime example of this borrowed creativity.  I saw an idea that I liked, and put my own spin on it.  Other times, it is a little more malicious.  I might, say, take a picture of a photograph, or quickly type up a note on my phone, documenting a simplified version of a printed recipe.  Admittedly, this is sort of awful of me. 

This past weekend, I engaged in the latter type of activity.  I saw a recipe for the loveliest chopped salad, with two types of cabbage, fennel, olives, chicken, and an oregano vinaigrette.  Hunkered down on the floor of Barnes and Noble, tucked in an unassuming aisle, I jotted down a list of ingredients on my phone, and a few notes on the vinaigrette, while occasionally taking a nervous glance over my shoulder.  “I will make it my own,” I told myself, trying to rationalize my inappropriate behavior.  I had spent over an hour looking at the cookbook from which I stole the recipe.  There were quite a few additional recipes that caught my eye, but I only stole one.  Later that evening, I found myself wishing my notes on the vinaigrette were more thorough, but I figured that served me right, and I was not even feeling the proper kind of remorse, given the crime. 

The next day, I went back to Barnes and Noble on an unrelated errand.  As I was getting ready to leave my apartment, I suddenly realized I would get another opportunity to take a look at the now fuzzy vinaigrette assembly; I found myself involuntarily picking up the pace in excitement over spending a little more time with the cookbook.  I took care of my first task; I immediately sidled up to the cookbook section, and then blew another hour sitting cross-legged on the floor, with the cookbook nestled in my lap.  I suddenly heard a voice in my head, saying “BUY THE COOKBOOK.”  It was as if I became Pluto in an old Disney cartoon, and a mini-me angel tapped me on the shoulder, guiding me towards the right thing.  And I am now engaging in a bold-faced confession, hoping that it will entitle me to blog about the recipe with a (sort of) clean conscience.
Seriously though, in spite of my questionable moral compass, this chopped salad is very tasty.  I am not a big salad eater; they tend to be too crunchy and not rich or savory enough.  With that being said, I’ve got to hand it to Jeanne Kelley, author of SaladFor Dinner because her book truly lives up to its title.  She takes a genre of food known for leaving diners wanting more, and renders it worthy of calling it a satisfying dinner.  Her recipes, categorized by their protein, are all well-rounded, full flavored, and filling meals.  Granted I have only made this Chopped Salad, but I can tell that there are quite a few other recipes that will live up to its prowess.
Now about this Chopped Salad… it’s utterly divine.  Crunchy green and red cabbage, sweet fennel, and red onion are offset by the heartiness of plenty of shredded chicken breast, all kissed with a bright Oregano Vinaigrette.  This strong foundation is then highlighted by a wide array of salty, savory morsels, that elevate it from a glorified slaw into a balanced and thoughtful main dish.  Briny green olives and peppery parley leaves run throughout the salad.  And as if that weren’t enough, the salad is then garnished with feta and prosciutto (I know, it makes me swoon, too). 
When I initially read the recipe, I thought, “Why green olives?  Why not Kalamata?”  Shopping for the meal, I even paused at the olive bar, eyes darting between the bins of green Mt. Athos olives and Kalamata, questioning what I felt to be an otherwise brilliant recipe.  I made a last minute swerve to the left, and counted out my 10 green olives, upped from Kelley’s six.  I’m willing to defend my choice on this particular judgment call, but I have to say that the Kalamatas would have been a grave mistake.  The color and the firm texture alone make green olives worth their salt in this context, and I think the brinier, milder flavor is the perfect compliment.  As for the prosciutto and feta, I’m pretty sure those two ingredients speak for themselves, and  they truly yield a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. 
Another strong selling point for the delectable Chopped Salad is that is one of the few in the history of salads that actually holds up as a decent leftover, and that is because it made with cabbage instead of lettuce or baby greens.  Tossed in dressing, it retained its immaculate crunch over a couple of days, only deepening in flavor.  I kept the prosciutto and feta separate (they were a garnish, after all).  Please note, I did not add any salt to this recipe, besides in the preparation of the dressing and the chicken.  The smorgasbord of salty flavors is adequate without actually salting the dish.  My favorite salty element?  The prosciutto, no question.  The sweet, meaty flavor and toothsome texture definitely add a certain “je ne sais quoi,” and the color is the icing on the cake.  The recipe written below is true to how I made it, including a few minor tweaks that veered slightly from the original text; however, I stuck to Kelley’s overall vision because she gave me no reason not to. 

Chopped Salad (slightly adapted from Jean Kelley’s Salad forDinner):
Serves 4

3-4 cups very thinly sliced green cabbage
2-3 cups very thinly sliced red cabbage
12 ounces shredded cooked chicken breast (cooked in the same way at the previous post)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup red onion, very thinly sliced, tossed with a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
10 good quality green olives, pitted and chopped
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into pieces
4 ounces feta, crumbled

Oregano Vinaigrette
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, lightly smashed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk all ingredients for vinaigrette together except oil and garlic.  Gradually whisk in oil.  Add garlic clove, and allow dressing to sit for 30 minutes.  Allow garlic clove to continue sitting in dressing, but don't eat it.

In a large bowl, combine both cabbages, fennel, onion, parsley, olives, and chicken.  Add enough Oregano Vinaigrette to lightly coat, and toss well.  

Divide salad on dinner plates and garnish with prosciutto and feta, and an additional drizzle of vinaigrette and freshly ground black pepper.


  1. I really like the looks of that vinaigrette - have to try! thanks Psycho-rooni!

  2. Glad you like, Chef!

    Deb, if you are envisioning the oregano vin from Oregano's in Phoenix, you should up the oregano to one and a half teaspoons. It's very delicious either way though!