How to CookSalad

How to Make a Chopped Salad with What's Lying Around

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Chop to it! We partnered with our friends at Stemilt Growers to share the steps for building chopped salads at home, without a recipe. Their online resource There's An Apple for That offers a guide to choosing the right apple for your dish, cooking techniques, and recipes.

Chopped salad bars are a work of art to watch function. The different greens and oodles of toppings laid out in front of you, all of which get thrown into a stainless steel bowl and cut in a rapid back-and-forth motion using one of those half moon-shaped things (a.k.a. a mezzaluna). It seems impossible to create the same thing at home—no endless fridge space, probably closer to 5 ingredients than 100, chopping skills that could use some brushing up.

Chop, chop.
Chop, chop. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Here's the thing, though: You can do much better than some chain store. You can use whatever ingredients you like, and instead of hacking at those vegetables, you can chop them into bite-size pieces, about the same size, so that you can practically eat everything with a spoon. You can even add golden raisins, toss in chopped pistachios, crumble a mound of gorgonzola, and finish everything off with your own vinaigrette (and it won't cost you a dollar extra, per ingredient, for five pieces).

Like I said, you can do better. And you will, in just 5 steps. Here's how to make chopped salad without a recipe:

Survey your bounty.
Survey your bounty. Photo by Mark Weinberg

1. Choose your base produce.

This is a good clean-out-the-fridge type of meal. However, when choosing your produce, try to vary flavors and textures (sweet, crispy, creamy, peppery, etc) like tart apple, buttery avocado, and more. Here are some options:

  • Crunchy apple, like Fuji
  • Kale
  • Greens, like romaine
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Shaved fennel
  • Blanched fresh or frozen peas
  • Finely chopped radish
  • Diced avocado
  • Cucumber
  • Red onion
  • Pickled peppers
  • Scallions
  • Blanched green beans

2. Add some oomph.

Repeat after me:“Texture, texture, texture.” What this means: Chopped salads can handle lotsa stuff, which only make them more fun to eat. You might want to try:

Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Olives
  • Salami
  • Toasted nuts or seeds (pepitas, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc.)
  • Chickpeas
  • Cheese (sharp cheddar, gorgonzola, feta, ricotta salata, etc.)
  • Dried fruit (golden raisins, dates, figs)
  • Fresh herbs (chives, mint, parsley, cilantro, dill)
  • Cooked and crumbled bacon
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Chicken (leftover from a roast or rotisserie chicken)

3. Chop, chop, chop.

Cut everything about the same size (or at least uniform). If there are ingredients like, say, pepitas that are small enough as they are, leave them be. If not, crumble or cube that cheese, chop those apples, dice that avocado, and shave that fennel. Ideally, everything would be cut so similarly, you’d almost be able to eat it with a spoon. (In Genius Recipes, there’s even a recipe called “Use A Spoon” Chopped Salad.)

How to Make a Vinaigrette Without a Recipe
How to Make a Vinaigrette Without a Recipe

4. Make your vinaigrette.

Use your favorite, whether that’s shallot and cider vinaigrette, warm bacon vinaigrette, mustard-walnut vinaigrette, dijon-shallot vinaigrette, or fig balsamic vinaigrette.

And if you have olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard stocked, you can make the quickest vinaigrette there is: 3 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar, a dollop of Dijon mustard, some salt and pepper, and you're on your way.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

5. Toss!

Add all of your salad components to a large bowl, pour dressing over top, toss, and serve immediately. It’s as easy—and customizable—as that.

Looking for more of a recipe? Here are some ideas:

Make-Your-Own Spring Chopped Salad

Make-Your-Own Spring Chopped Salad by Ashley Rodriguez

Kale, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprout Chopped Salad

Kale, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprout Chopped Salad by Kenzi Wilbur

Grilled and Chopped Chicken Caesar Salad

Grilled and Chopped Chicken Caesar Salad by Caroline Wright

Chopped Kitchen Sink Salad with Yogurt Dressing & Bottarga

Chopped Kitchen Sink Salad with Yogurt Dressing & Bottarga by Sara Jenkins

What do you put in a chopped salad? Tell us in the comments below!

There’s An Apple for That is Washington-based Stemilt Growers' searchable resource for all things apple, from cooking techniques to recipes. See all their apple varieties, like Granny Smith, Piñata, and Pink Lady, here.

Tags: Vegetable, Tips & Techniques, (Not) Recipes