In college, I spent many a weeknight waiting tables at the California Pizza Kitchen in Westwood Village. And while I had to wear a hideous yellow tie and often came home smelling like tortilla soup, a few good things came out of that stint. One is the boy that lives in my home and eats most of my dinners with me. Another is this Italian chopped salad that I adore.
One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is rip off great restaurant meals. This salad is hearty enough to eat for dinner without feeling weighed down, and perfect for a quick weeknight meal on the go. Dress it lightly, and you can pack the leftovers for a tasty lunch. Making your own mustard vinaigrette saves you cash, along with preservatives, artificial flavors, and high-fructose corn syrup. Best of all, it's easy. Even if you're inexperienced and afraid of your kitchen, throw these ingredients together and you'll have a great dish to bring to your next potluck or picnic lunch.
Start by chopping a head of romaine lettuce.
Washing lettuce is pretty high on my list of things that annoy me, but a salad spinner makes it bearable. Rinse the lettuce in the strainer. Rinse it well... Dirt in your salad is not a happy time!
Once the salad is good and washed, the strainer basket fits inside a plastic bowl with a special crank lid.
The water spins right out! Now I understand that not everyone has a salad spinner. The easiest way to wash your lettuce without one is to rinse the individual romaine leaves, and blot them with paper towels until they're dry.
Since it's a chopped salad, we're gonna keep on chopping. Salami and turkey...
You can get thick-cut salami and turkey at the deli counter at your grocery store. I asked for two 1/2 inch slices of each meat (just be sure you say "please" and "thank you", and give 'em a smile).
Roughly chop some cherry tomatoes, basil, and garbanzo beans, and add them to the party.
Now grate some mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Take a photo of your finished cheese and email it to me so I can put it on the blog. Thanks!
It's time to make the vinaigrette. It's really difficult and complicated...
Mix a tablespoon of dijon mustard with the juice from a small lemon (or a tablespoon of red wine vinegar). Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and whisk until combined. Then gradually drizzle in about 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking the entire time. If you whisk enough, the dressing will be uniform throughout, and not separated (this is called an emulsion. Use that term at your next dinner party!). Taste your dressing and adjust the flavors to your liking, adding more salt, pepper, vinegar, or oil until you're happy. Because I want you to be happy.
Like so! Now add about half the dressing to your salad and toss in a large bowl. Add more dressing until the salad is to your liking.
There you go! And best of all, no CPK waitresses were harmed in the making of this salad.
Italian Chopped Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
Adapted from California Pizza Kitchen
Serves 4 as a main course
Feel free to go wild with your ingredients here. I've used pepperocini, giardinera mix, bell pepper, black olives, and red onion, all with great results.
For the salad:
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 half-inch thick slices of salami
2 half-inch thick slices of deli turkey
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup basil, finely chopped
For the dressing:
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (or any other tasty mustard, I use a sweet onion mustard)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
big pinch of salt
big pinch of pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar (or lemon juice), salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is a smooth even consistency.
Toss the salad with two wooden spoons, and serve with a delicious piece of crusty bread and your favorite soup.