For a long time, I didn’t understand why everyone talked about the chopped salad at the Italian restaurant up the street from me in my old neighborhood. Not only was the restaurant so average the one time I had gone that I hadn’t gone back, but the dish in question was a salad…
Raving about some signature dish that was oozing cheese and sauce, or gushing over a plate of pasta, or swooning over some perfectly seared rare steak makes sense to me.
But a salad? For which the kitchen doesn’t have to do anything? Has only to throw together some vegetables in a bowl? If they shop well enough to get good ingredients in the first place, they don’t even have to do much to dress the salad other than drizzle with olive oil and vinegar? Please.
Then, on some odd occasion, I ended up back in the restaurant (when I wouldn’t have otherwise), and because I was there, I ordered the salad.
I couldn’t stop raving about the Chopped Salad after that.
I think I ate it once a week for about six months. From that average little restaurant, nothing else but the chopped salad.
It’s been a few years since I’ve had that particular chopped salad. I moved out of the neighborhood, and with so many other foods to eat, I just didn’t think about it. Only recently have I been re-introduced to the idea of an Italian chopped salad, this time at another Italian restaurant up the street from us. After having this restaurant’s version of chopped salad, I remembered how much I love the fresh, crisp simplicity of iceberg lettuce, the ultra tart vinaigrette that is sometimes almost too powerful, and the cheese and salami that make the salad hearty enough to be a meal.
This Chopped Salad with Italian Vinaigrette is based on a recipe for the salad from the more recent restaurant (which published a cookbook last year).
Chopped Salad with Italian Vinaigrette
inspired by, based on, pretty much almost exactly like except for a few things, a recipe from Mozza
serves 4 to 8 depending on serving size
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (Mozza recipe uses 2½ tablespoons)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
juice from ½ lemon, or more to taste
2 medium cloves garlic, very finely minced (Mozza uses 1 smashed and 1 grated)
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
½ small red onion, cut length-wise and thinly sliced into slivers, soaked in bowl of ice water for about 10 minutes
1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded (or, obviously a bag of Dole shredded lettuce)
1 head radicchio, thinly sliced/shredded
1 pint small cherry tomatoes cut into halves, or quarters if the tomatoes are large
1 ½ cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ pound aged provolone cheese, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, then cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
¼ pound Genoa salami, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, then cut into ¼-inch-wide strips
5 pepperoncini, thinly sliced into rings
Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon (1 tablespoon), or more to taste
Dried oregano (preferably Sicilian oregano on the branch), for sprinkling
salt and pepper to taste
Make the Vinaigrette: Whisk together the vinegar, oregano, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes then add the oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to form an emulsified vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning, and adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.
Make the Salad: Combine shredded lettuce, sliced radicchio, halved/quartered tomatoes, chickpeas, provolone, salami, peperoncini and onion in a large, wide bowl. Drizzle about ¼ cup of the vinaigrette over the ingredients in the bowl, then toss gently to combine and coat the vegetables. Taste for seasoning and adjust with additional vinaigrette, salt, and pepper. You will not use all the dressing. Cover it tightly and keep in refrigerator up to 3 days.
Serve salad with extra dried oregano.