Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Create Chopped Salads Like a Chef

Sometimes I get really excited about a new idea (or at least new to me) and then after a short time having fun with it I lose interest.

Not so with my new friend, the chopped salad. 

The perfect low calorie, high volume, Vegan weight loss food.

I was reacquainted with chopped salads a little over two months ago when I stayed with Chef AJ, having had many of them when I lived in LA twenty years ago. She showed me how easy it is to throw them together as a last minute meal, and as soon as I tasted how amazing it was, I knew I would buy that Ulu mezzaluna knife as soon as I got off the plane at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

And I did.

I made a few chopped salads.

And a few more.

Now they're part of my weekly food prep routine.

I crave my chopped salads.

Making them is just too easy if you follow this formula that I'm going to share with you today.

Here's what you need:

1. A mezzaluna knife. I prefer the Ulu brand from Alaska because it's a single blade and you chop with one hand. The double blade one catches too much food between the blades and no one likes it.

2. Salad dressing. I now prefer simply using any aged balsamic vinegar. You certainly can use any salad dressing or your liking, but the key here is that I want healthy food that's fast without fussing. And aged balsamic vinegars give me a great taste that I love and it's just one ingredient. You can't beat them for fuss free salad dressing.

3. A wooden or plastic bowl of your choice. The larger the better. I use a big Tupperware bowl that was my Grandma Freda's if I'm making a lot of salad or a medium sized fancy wooden bowl that I received from my Aunt Marg and Uncle Len as a wedding gift 19 years ago (holy #&%* I've been married for almost 19 years--my anniversary is in less than one week!).

4. Salad greens of any kind. Mixed spring greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, anything, I find that the large boxes of mixed spring greens are the easiest to keep on hand for quick chopped salads and I purchase bags of arugula occasionally to add for variety.

5, More vegetables: pre-prepped raw vegetables such as shredded cabbage, chopped kale, shredded carrots, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli slaw, pea pods, fresh peas, or anything. Cooked beets or cooked corn are good too, and I'll bet that any leftover roasted veggies that you have on hand would be a good addition. Artichoke hearts, hearts of palm or olives are amazing, I like to pick up lots of bags of different raw vegetables each time I go to Trader Joe's. Nothing I'm throwing in there is finely chopped. That all happens with the Ulu knife action later!

6. Optional: raw onion. Red onion is nice, but whatever allium vegetable you prefer.

7. Cooked grain. Cooked red rice, brown rice, wild rice or quinoa make wonderful options. You don't need to make the grain part of what gets chopped, so hold it out until after the salad is chopped and then stir it in.

8. Fruit. Think apple or pomegranate seeds. Mango is tasty in a Mexican chopped salad, but eat the salad immediately or the whole thing turns into a wet mess. Dried fruit is amazing, but not a good weight loss food.

9. Optional: Beans of your choice. Any variety. Drained and rinsed or cooked from scratch.

If you look on YouTube you will see that a lot of people do their chopping with the mezzaluna on a cutting board. There is simply no way that the contents of my salads would fit on a chopping board. I am making a large volume of salad at once as I always have more than one mouth to feed.

I just follow Chef AJ's lead and do my chopping directly in a large bowl. I don't have a special chopping method other than hacking away at the stuff and stirring as I go until everything looks like a nice chopped salad. My buddy Tammy give a demonstration this past Friday evening during the UWL potluck at my house and she had a technique that I'm guessing she learned at cooking school. I tried it this morning and I wasn't able to replicate it, so I reverted to my standard hack away method which gives me a bit of a workout, but that just might be a good thing.

My plastic bowls have lids so it's great for simply portioning out what I'm going to eat right after I chop the salad and storing the rest for the next meal.

I have found that chopped salads are even good the next day, as long as you avoid using an ingredient that is going to release a bunch of liquid into the salad. That's great if you eat the salad immediately, but if you let it sit the same salad turns into a salsa (don't try this yourself, I know from experience!).

Breakfast, lunch or dinner, a chopped salad is an incredible meal. You will impress your family and friends if you bring one to a pot luck--you just might want to do the chopping a la minute to take no chances on it becoming a salsa.

I hope you try my formula. I'm fairly confident that you will be really happy when you do!

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