LOCAL TIP: can localize with local restaurants that serve chopped salad, and recipes if they'll give them
What the heck is a chopped salad? There are countless variations, but the basics of the recipe are greens and add-ins tossed with a vinaigrette, said Wendy Silver of New York City, a stay-at-home mom who made record-breaking sales on QVC with her kitchen tool, the Toss & Chop.
"There are no rules," Silver said. "It's whatever is fresh."
Who's Eating Them?
They're talking about them on the USA Network's hit miniseries "The Starter Wife," where characters are busy dropping names and wearing designer clothes.
But this isn't some La-La Land trend.
Not only is it on local menus, but hundreds of people ate it out of a cup at Garden Fair, held this month at Klehm Arboretum and catered by Cliffbreakers restaurant.
"I am close to being a connoisseur of chopped salads," said Judy Phillips, the Klehm official who suggested the dish for the outdoor event. "It was easy for a customer to consume while browsing, it is a healthy choice, and it is delicious. With it being a busy work weekend, I had two and probably sold many more by suggestion."
What the Fuss is all About
Silver invented the Toss & Chop in her quest to re-create at home the chopped salad she had fallen in love with at a Manhattan restaurant.
She sees several reasons why people like them, including the hearty portions of ingredients and the fact you won't go broke buying what you need.
"The ingredients don't have to be that high-end," she said. "You don't have to use the expensive, fancy lettuce. Because you're chopping it up, regular iceberg lettuce is better than these delicate, expensive lettuces."
Then there's the nutritional value.
"I don't like raw broccoli, but if you chop it up and throw it in, you hardly notice," she said.
Where it Came From
Chopped salads were around long before Silver invented her chopping tool in 1998.
In fact, the roots go back to the Cobb Salad, made famous at Hollywood's Brown Derby restaurant in 1937.
Named after restaurant owner Robert H. Cobb, the classic recipe included finely chopped lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, chicken breast, hard-cooked eggs, avocado, Roquefort cheese, chives and his vinaigrette.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Daily News credits L.A.'s La Scala restaurant with creating the chopped salad in the 1950s, in response to celebrities and other diners complaining ingredients were too long and tough to eat.
Start with fresh ingredients. It makes a difference.
Remove all the moisture from your salad greens after washing; excess moisture causes the leaves to wilt.
Prepare the dressing and add-ins ahead of time. When you are ready to eat, simply assemble the ingredients, chop the greens and serve.
Go light on the dressing when preparing the salad, then serve the extra dressing on the side.
Don't go chop crazy. Some ingredients, such as whole shrimp, work just as well simply mixed in.
Experiment with these add-ins:
Broccoli, capers, carrots, cauliflower, chickpeas, corn, cucumber, fennel, leeks, grilled sweet onions, haricot verts, jicama, Kalamata olives, peppers, portobello mushrooms, red onion, roasted beets, roasted peppers, sugar snap peas, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, Shiitake mushrooms
Apples, dried cranberries or cherries, coconut, mango, pears, raisins
Almonds, croutons, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, tortilla chips, Asian noodles
Asiago, blue, cheddar, feta, goat, mozzarella, Parmesan
Chicken breast, grilled tuna, grilled salmon, lobster, shrimp, sliced ham, smoked turkey, steak, smoked bacon
Source: Wendy Silver, Silvermark's Toss & Chop