By Erin O’Donnell, Editor, Kansas Women Bloggers
Getting my family to eat salad is a chore. They look at a bowl of leafy greens as if it were yard waste. My husband, who endures salad more than he enjoys it, got braces this year. They have altered his bite, making it nearly impossible for him to chew up large pieces of flat lettuce.
So after watching multiple heads of lettuce go from crisper drawer to compost pile, I quit buying them altogether. Then, a couple of months ago, I grabbed a bag of chopped salad at the grocery store because we were having guests for dinner and I felt like being fancy. It had tortilla strips and a chipotle ranch dressing — a super easy side dish for the Mexican entree we were making. To my amazement, my husband and at least one child raved about the salad. I believe seconds happened as well.
The light in my mental fridge went on — I can do this with my regular salad ingredients, and maybe even sneak in a few they won’t notice. Presto: I’m chopping all our salads now. It has more texture and the flavors blend so much better. Plus, it’s a lot easier for the kids to get on their forks (and, frankly, for me too).
My typical chopped salad base starts with mixed greens. I especially love throwing in baby kale because no one knows they’re eating kale! (Hashtag: #stealthhealth.) Baby spinach is also a must. The darker the greens, the better.
I also include celery for a nice crunch, and there’s no stringiness when it’s finely chopped. Mushrooms and carrots round out my basic recipe. I use a mini food processor to pulse them a few times, so they’re chopped, not vaporized.
From there, you can customize to your mouth’s content. I put cherry tomatoes from our garden on my husband’s serving, but not mine because I can only eat tomatoes that are extremely well disguised. Nuts and seeds are awesome. Pecans complement a sweet salad with fruit, and almonds blend better with savory. I love sunflower seeds on mine because, hello, we’re in Kansas!
Add in fresh chopped herbs that complement your main entree. Try basil with Italian, cilantro with Mexican, dill with seafood. Herbs will give the salad a real personality. Top it off with with some crumbly cheese like bleu or feta. For a Mexican salad, I’ve recently discovered cotija, which is a very finely crumbled cheese with a pleasantly sharp taste.
Here’s my base recipe. Add your own flair!
Basic Chopped Salad
3 cups mixed greens
2 ribs celery
4-6 medium mushrooms, stems removed
1/2 cup carrots
Cherry tomatoes to taste
Variations: nuts, seeds, cheese, fresh herbs, additional veggies
With a chef’s knife, chop greens into small chunks. Add other veggies to food processor and pulse a few times to desired texture, or chop by hand into pieces about the size of a pea. Toss all ingredients, then add nuts, cheese, herbs or other veggies as desired. Top with tomatoes. Serves 4.