This is a great salad! It has been around for years, and if memory serves, originally came from Michele’s sister. It is extremely flexible, with many options. This is one of those that begs for some creativity. You really should have some fun with it. At the very least, try to keep in the sugared almonds (absolutely delicious) and the Mandarin Orange sections…
2 heads, tender Romaine lettuce, cleaned and chopped (bi-laterally, to avoid long stringy pieces)
1-2 cups chopped/sliced celery hearts
6-8 green onions (scallions), cleaned and chopped, using an inch or two of the green part as well
½ pint of cherry/grape tomatoes, cleaned, drained, and cut in half
2 small cans Mandarin Orange sections, drained
Dressing (see below)
Prepared, cooled, and broken apart almond slices (see below)
Combine the first five ingredients in a salad, or serving bowl, and mix to combine well. The dressing can be applied now and the salad served, tossed and already dressed, or, the dressing can be served with the salad and applied by your guests, individually. Top salad with the almond pieces before serving.
½ tsp salt
½ tsp of fresh ground black pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP of finely chopped fresh parsley (½ TBSP if dried)
1 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce
2 TBSPS apple cider vinegar
Combine all of the ingredients into a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine. If low-sodium soy sauce isn’t available, use the regular stuff, but omit the ½ tsp salt. Whisk well to emulsify and taste to adjust. If dressing the salad in the bowl and tossing before serving, start slowly and add a little dressing at a time, so as to not “drown” your salad.
¾ cup sliced almonds
3 TBSPS granulated sugar
(2 TBSPS butter, in not using a non-stick pan)
In a small non-stick skillet, over low to medium heat, add the almonds and sugar together and stir to combine. Paying careful attention not to burn the sugar to the almonds, slowly work the sugar and almonds in the pan until the sugar melts, coats the almonds and just begins to caramelize and turn brown. The difference in time between the almonds being perfect and the almonds being burned is not real great. It’s nothing to stress over; just don’t go make a long-distance phone call after you put your ingredients in the pan. Remove from the heat and immediately turn them out onto parchment paper or aluminum foil and “un-clumped” as much as possible. After they cool, they can be broken apart into little pieces and clusters, just right for sprinkling on your Chopped Salad. (Don’t stop there: ice cream sundaes with these sprinkled on them, or warm cinnamon rolls, or granola, on top of muffins, seriously…the imagination runs just a little bit wild…make them, taste them, trust me…)
Other stuff to do to/with this salad:
- Just about any greenery will work for this salad; chop up some iceberg lettuce; I have made it with cabbages, if you’re not too freaked out about allowable fecal matter particles per million, I suppose you could use some of that artificial tasting bagged stuff (please be careful)…Boston, Bibb, Endive, Radicchio, you really can’t go wrong.
- Additions: again, just about anything goes; dried fruit(s), sunflower seeds, goat/feta cheese, Bok-choy, radishes, red onion, chopped hard-boiled egg, grated cheddar cheese, olives, peppers…the more the merrier!
- Proteins: make a meal and add protein; beef tips and bleu cheese, sliced sirloin and mushrooms, shredded chicken and cheddar, chopped cooked fish…
- Chopped basil, fresh or roasted garlic, thyme, oregano…
- Go Asian!: Add water chestnuts and baby corn to the salad. Add some garlic, ginger, and sesame oil to the dressing. Add crunched up chow mein noodles on top with the sugared almonds…
- Go Latin!: Add taco seasoned ground hamburger (cooked just like you would for making tacos), about a ½ pound, rinse and drain a can of black-eyed peas, or your favorite bean, and about ¼ to ½ pound of good sharp cheddar, grated. Stir in a little taco seasoning mix into the dressing. Jalapenos, either in the salad, or dressing, are optional. Top with crumbled corn chips and the sugared almonds…
…way back when (back in the day), I would occasionally hang out with my older brother and his friends and play some old-school Dungeons & Dragons in his rented and shared house on the East Side of Buffalo, NY. When everybody got hungry, we would often send out for some Chinese food from this place called “Noodle King”. They served a dish called “Cold Sesame Noodles” and, of course, you could get it with Pork, Chicken, or Shrimp. The noodles were probably lo-mein noodles and they weren’t like they just came out of the refrigerator, but they were not heated, either. They came coated with a (most awesome) peanut sauce that was delicious! For years since, I have been playing with different combinations and have yet to perfect it. This versatile sauce below is a by-product of all of that experimentation. It’s close…
3/2/1 Peanut/Satay Sauce
I use a soup-sized spoon for my “TBSP” in this recipe, and I measure liberally. Don’t fuss with exact measurements, it’s pretty foolproof…toss with some hot spaghetti-like noodles, Asian or domestic, it does not matter. There will then be an opportunity to top these coated noodles with some teriyaki fried pieces of chicken breast, if you’d like. Thin the sauce with some sweet coconut milk and you’ll have a wonderful Satay sauce for dipping Asian prepared meats in; or incorporating into fried rice dishes.
I only use one kind of teriyaki sauce and it is a funky Yiddish (yes, Yiddish) company called Soy-Vay. It’s found in most stores in the Asian section, with a blue and white label on a glass bottle. It’s dark and thick and sweet and savory at the same time and it has sesame seeds floating in it. Try to find it if you can, it’s worth it… (Shake well)…
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add:
3 TBSP Peanut Butter (Chunky is OK if you want the peanut bits in your sauce)
3 TBSP Teriyaki Sauce
3 TBSP Soy Sauce (I like the low-sodium kind)
3 TBSP Dark Sesame Oil
2 TBSP Sugar or Honey
2 TBSP Coarse Garlic (I typically use the California Blend type, dried mixed with parsley)
1 TBSP good quality vegatble oil
1 TBSP hot sauce (optional item/optional quantity)
Mix all ingredients well with a wire whisk, set aside and let it sit for about 20 minutes (or until the sugar is dissolved and the garlic has absorbed some moisture) and whisk again for a final incorporation.
IMPORTANT: this should be considered a base recipe that is extremely flexible. If it’s not “peanutty” enough, add more peanut butter, if you like the taste and smell of sesame oil, add some more; you can’t hurt this sauce…Have fun and enjoy!