Classic Chopped Salad

Summer is all about freshness.  Farmers Markets.  Pick Your Own Farms.  Roadside Produce Stands.  Backyard Gardens.  There is simply nothing better than fresh.  What better way to highlight all of your delicious and healthy produce finds than in a salad.

My family, even my three teen boys, love salads (how thankful am I for that?).   Salads are just so versatile; they can take on so many forms and showcase so many flavor profiles.  The possibilities are truly endless.

One of my family’s all time favorite meals is the classic Chopped Salad.  They literally scarf if down like there is no tomorrow. I’ve had to abandon the use of my large salad bowl when making this salad.  I now utilize my stock pot because I need that much room for the quantity of salad my guys consume.  Again, I’m thankful.  No mom, ever, said, “I can’t stand that my kids keep asking me to make salad.”

I’m not sure exactly why chopped salad is such a favorite.  The recipe is super simple and the flavors so familiar.  I often wonder if it has something to do with the texture.  See with a chopped salad, all of the components are chopped or diced into the same size.  There are no big chunks, no uncooperative lettuce leaves, no salad falling from forks.  Every fork full of salad is rather neat and tidy, and every bite has a little bit of everything.  This is a salad that could even be enjoyed using a tablespoon.

I love the versatility of chopped salad.  While the recipe that follows is really more of a list of suggested ingredients, you can opt to add so much more.  Love Italian flavors?  Try adding sundried tomatoes, some chopped basil, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, and salami.  Have a hankering for Mexican?  Add in chopped avocado, corn, spicy cheese, and black beans.  Really, you can make this salad anything that you want it to be.

Again, I believe that a lot of this salad’s appeal comes from the texture.  Remember that each component needs to be chopped or diced into the same size (no measuring necessary – just come close).  You’ll notice in the picture below that no one component really dominates the salad – that’s exactly what you want.

I do offer up one warning:  there is a rather large amount of prep work involved with a chopped salad.  With every single salad component requiring chopping, allot yourself enough time to work.  It’s worth every minute.  I have always found chopping vegetables to be relaxing (I’m serious)

One last thing that I love about this salad is the sneaky-mom factor.  Sneaky-Mom?  You know when you try to sneak healthy things into your kiddos food?  This is ideal for some sneaking.  My guys don’t shy away from vegetables so you’ll notice that there are 4 cups of kale included in this salad.   I even added some leftover watercress to the mix (not listed in the recipe).

If you decide to give this a try, snap a photo and share it on your social media accounts with the hashtag #theglutenfreegathering.  I can’t wait to see how you make this classic your very own!

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Classic Chopped Salad (Dinner Size)
serves 6 (hungry teenage boy servings) or 8 (people with regular appetite servings)

8 cups, finely chopped, iceburg lettuce (about 1 medium head)
4 cups, finely chopped, kale leaves, stems removed & discarded
2 cups, finely diced, hothouse cucumbers (the long, thin English cucumbers)
1 cup, finely diced, red bell pepper
2 cups, peeled, finely diced, carrots
3 cups, finely diced, vine ripe tomatoes (liquid & seeds removed)
1 cup finely diced red onion
6 oz. can medium, pitted olives, finely chopped
8 oz. skim milk mozzarella cheese, finely diced
3/4 pound, fully cooked, ham steak, finely diced

3/4 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup golden balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons prepared, jarred basil pesto
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/4 + pinch sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

There are not many instructions regarding how to actually make this salad.  As mentioned above, be sure that all of your salad components are processed into the same approximate size.

Regarding the tomatoes, be sure to remove and discard the seeds and liquid inside of each tomato prior to dicing.  This can easily be accomplished by slicing each tomato in half and pulling out the seeds.

I chose to use a precooked ham steak in my salad.  I opted for an all natural brand, Farm Promise, that tends to steer clear of nitrites, nitrates and preservatives.  You can opt for equal amounts of grilled chicken or turkey if ham is not to your liking.

To make the dressing, simply place all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until emulsified.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

The salad should then be served immediately.  If the salad sits for too long in the dressing it will likely become soggy.

This recipe is formulated to be a dinner salad, not a side salad.  You can easily halve the recipe to serve as a side salad.



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