By Cal Orey
Enter the popular Chef’s Salad. It’s an all-American favorite like apple pie. The traditional salad also called Chef Salad includes meat, poultry, cheese (sliced julienne style), hard-cooked eggs, and salad greens. Some food historians believe the mixed green salad derived from our health-conscious Golden State. Others believed it was created at a fancy restaurant in New York City.
As a kid, during warm months my mom made this salad for our family. My first Chef’s Salad included turkey, ham, iceberg lettuce, and dressing. It was paired with a bread basket full of French bread and pats of butter. On weekends, my mom took extra time and care into slicing the cold cuts into fancy thin rectangles and created yummy homemade Thousand Island dressing. But if it was a side dish on the weekdays it was a simple vegetable version tossed together with bottled French dressing.
Years ago when a neighbor invited me—the health nut vegetarian--to a bar-b-que I brought salsa, tortilla chips, and marshmallows for roasting. The guests weren’t thrilled by my goodies or the raw grilled shrimp and warm vegetable pasta salad. I remember I said, “I should have made a Chef’s Salad with lots of meats and vegetables. That way, we’d all be happy.” Due to clash of personalities which started with a cold war of meat eaters versus vegetarian, I snatched my bag of unopened marshmallows, went home early and made S’mores in the microwave.
As a wannabe vegan in the Sierra, half the time I’m a vegetarian. So here is a version of the Chef’s Salad with a South Shore meatless twist.
Health Nut Vegetarian Chef’s Salad
2 cups spring mixed greens (the darker, the better)
1 large Roma tomato, sliced
¼ cup cucumber, sliced
¼ cup celery, diced
¼ cup green or red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons black olives, sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, shelled
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, sharp, sliced
2 teaspoons each chives and scallions, minced
½ cup mayonnaise with olive oil
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped
1 teaspoon onion, chopped (optional)
Ground pepper to taste
In a large bowl, place a bed of greens. Toss in salad ingredients. For dressing, in a small bowl, whisk ingredients and put in fridge until serving. The salad serves two to three. (Carnivores can substitute cheese and seeds with ¼ cup turkey, ¼ cup ham, chopped, and 2 tablespoons bacon, crumbled.)
A Chef’s Salad, like this one, is good for everyone. Offer both salad dressing types to be on the safe side. Serve with local, fresh warm French bread slices (with olive oil to dip), and a bowl of berries for dessert. This dish is versatile and can be a slimming one or not—if piled with too much meat and dressing. However you dish it up I promise that it’ll keep your guests from fleeing. For dessert, offer apple pie and you can’t go wrong. Well, serve a bowl of fresh berries, too, to cover all bases.