High-end vinegars heighten entree salads’ appeal

Recipes with the most recent A Fresh Approach column acknowledge that chicken breast is a go-to protein for so many cooks, one that turns virtually any assortment of ingredients into a meal. The column’s concept of main-dish salads got a little more gourmet with Jan Roberts-Dominguez’s suggestions for sugar-glazed hazelnuts and Brindisi cheese.

Indeed, specialty foods are a surefire way to transform ordinary greens into something your family can’t wait to eat. In my house, that means a variety of dried fruits and nuts, along with unusual cheeses (most recently, sheep milk Petit Basque and feta) and cured meats like prosciutto and capicola. Expand your collection of vinegars beyond balsamic to Champagne and sherry to really make your salad dressings sing.

Perhaps a bit unexpected next to pepperoni is this salad’s bright, creamy Champagne vinaigrette. Buying the best-quality meat and cheese enlivens pedestrian romaine and iceberg in this recipe for chopped salad adapted by the Los Angeles Times from the Luggage Room in Pasadena, Calif.

While you may be tempted to substitute a more commonplace nut, such as almonds, remember that pistachios often play a role in Italian salumi, heightening the overall flavor experience. And although it’s a departure from the restaurant’s recipe, some fresh mozzarella strips or the tiny balls called “ciliegine” would add another layer of satisfying protein and suggest pizza toppings as a salad.

MCT photo

The Luggage Room Pizzeria Chopped Salad

1⁄4 teaspoon yellow mustard

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

2 cups chopped (into 1⁄8-inch-thick strips) romaine and iceberg lettuces

1⁄4 cup chopped white cheddar

1⁄4 cup 1⁄2-inch-diced pepperoni

1⁄4 cup 1⁄2-inch-diced cucumber

1 tablespoon brined green olives (such as picholine)

1 tablespoon oil-cured black olives (such as beldi)

1 tablespoon golden raisins

1 tablespoon shelled pistachios

2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil

In a bowl, whisk together the mustard and egg yolk. Whisk in the vinegar, then the olive oil in a slow drizzle. Taste, seasoning with salt and pepper and adjusting flavorings if desired. This makes a scant 1⁄2 cup dressing, which will keep, covered and chilled, for up to 3 days.

In a large bowl, toss the lettuces with the cheddar, pepperoni, cucumber, olives, raisins and pistachios. Toss with 4 tablespoons vinaigrette, then continue to add a little more until salad is coated to taste; you may not use all vinaigrette. Transfer to a chilled plate and garnish with the basil and cracked pepper.

Makes 1 serving.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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