entree salad: i am still a genius.

I would not normally blog a salad, since salad is … not complicated … but one of the people we served this to may have described it as “the best salad [he’s] ever had,” and I’m pretty sure that makes me legally obligated to write it up.

I have been making versions of this salad for years. You can, of course, add literally any raw vegetables that strike your fancy, it’s fucking salad, but I’ll give you the absolute most basic version; the gussied-up version we served to our guests; and the simpler version we typically have for dinner. Please note that the sole purpose of the gussied-up version was to get rid of some of the greens and veg that were threatening to overflow our fridge (because, as you may have heard, we joined a CSA). It is simply by providence that the salad came out so, so nice.

Whatever you put in this salad, the one absolute non-negotiable is the avocado. In the course of being tossed, it kind of …melts a little? and becomes part of the dressing, and it’s so, so lovely. There are still big chunks of avocado in the salad! But the creaminess it lends the whole dish is honestly to die for. It’s also part of what makes this a good dinner, not just a side dish (avocadoes have a lot of calories, which we love, because your body needs calories to live).

Also and finally I toss salads with my just-washed bare hands because I cannot manipulate salad tongs. I saw my friend’s aunt do this several years ago and it was a revelation.

DRESSING

I first wrote this dressing recipe up in 2014 (along with a method of washing and storing lettuce that will keep for literal weeks as nice as the day you bought it, which I’m also gonna rewrite below) but I’ll hit you again. Put in a mason jar and shake:

Olive oil
Half as much vinegar (I like champagne or rice vinegar here. My boyfriend likes balsamic. I’ve also been throwing in a splash of raspberry vinegar, as a treat.)
A healthy dollop of Dijon mustard (honestly, Grey Poupon really is the best.)
Kosher salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
Fresh thyme

Then taste it. Mine often wants a bit more salt.

SIMPLE VERSION: EVERYTHING IN HERE CAN BE PURCHASED AT TRADER JOE’S.

1 packaged grilled chicken
1 package greens (spring mix or herb salad are good)
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 Persian cucumber (or not Persian, but they’re so damn easy to work with), halved longways and chopped
1 avocado
1 package baby tomatoes (what you want if you’re at the supermarket is NatureSweet. no one else can grow a tasty tomato out of season. i don’t know how they do it. if it’s not NatureSweet you might as well be buying ping pong balls.)

GUSSIED-UP VERSION: MOST OF WHAT IS IN HERE WAS FOISTED UPON US BY OUR CSA.

Charcoal-grilled chicken marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, salt and paprika (i did not think i cared about grilled chicken until i had it made on a charcoal grill. holy mother.)
1 head butter lettuce
1 large handful torn frisee
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 – 2 Persian cucumbers, halved longways and chopped
1 sunchoke, halved longways and thinly sliced
1 package baby tomatoes
1 – 2 avocadoes
Handful of torn basil
Sprinkling of chopped scallions

WHAT WE NORMALLY EAT.

Charcoal-grilled chicken, marinated as above
Whatever lettuce we have, lately it’s been butter or red leaf because CSA
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 Persian cucumber, halved longways and chopped
1 avocado
Handful of torn basil

We are unspeakably lucky to have a backyard with a grill. If you don’t have one, that is totally fine – I made the chicken for this salad on a Foreman grill for years. Also, and again, this is salad. It’s really, really good salad, but you can put whatever you want in and leave whatever you want out. The avocado is critical, and the fresh basil really levels it up, but beyond that make it however it sparks joy to make it.

SOME TIPS.

How to wash and store lettuce so it will keep for weeks: rinse the whole head under the faucet. Let the water get in there as much as possible. Shake dry. Lay out a sheet of paper towels. (For physics reasons, I usually do about three half sheets.) Begin pulling leaves off and laying them out in a SINGLE LAYER. When you reach the end of your paper towels, lay another sheet down on top of the first and continue with your lettuce. When you run out of lettuce, cover your last layer with a sheet of paper towels, fold the whole thing in half, rubber band it loosely, and store in a Ziploc bag or any other plastic bag you have handy. This will keep for-fucking-ever. If push comes to shove, you can just wrap the whole head of lettuce in a few layers of paper towels after you wash it, and store that, whole, in a plastic bag. I did that with the frisee for lack of better ideas and it’s keeping spectacularly.

How to chop an avocado with incredible ease: I learned this watching the sandwich-makers at my college. Cut the avocado in half longways. Twist to open. Firmly whack a chef’s knife into the pit. Lift it right out. Now, inscribe lines horizontally across the face of the avocado as thick as you want your chunks to be. Try not to break the skin. Then slice the whole fruit vertically. This will give you perfect chunks attached to the skin that you can pop right off into the bowl.

About Sara

I like to talk about media, food, and gender.
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