Alex Guarnaschelli Blogs: The Chopped Salad Recipe That Won’t Get You Chopped

04/20/2016 at 08:45 AM ET

Alex Guarnaschelli
Alex Guarnaschelli

Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-auchool Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.

The ingredients for my chopped salad may look like they’re not going to get along but they end up making a great, crunchy salad every time.

Sometimes I let the cucumbers, radicchio and cabbage sit in the dressing for a few minutes before tossing in the other greens and apples. You can really use any mix of hearty and delicate greens for a chopped salad.

You can also take a fairly simple salad and make it a meal by topping it with chicken, meat or fish. I have even stirred in some cheese to make it heartier but still vegetarian. I love grated parmesan and provolone or cubes of Swiss cheese and extra sharp cheddar.

I am someone who loves an occasional steak dinner or roasted fish but I also love a lighter meal. Can you imagine all of that food I eat when sitting on the judging panel of Chopped? I would be lying if I didn’t say there are days when all I want to have is some steamed rice and dry toast! Then there are days, honestly, when I want to eat half a box of cookies and some layer cake. But there are also times where I get in deep with this chopped salad and enjoy the healthy aspect of it, the great textures and the many variations. It’s all about balance.

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Alex Guarnaschelli’s Chopped Salad
Serves 4-6

2 tbsp. smooth Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups canola oil
1 cup (preferably low sodium) cooked chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 medium hot house cucumber, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
2 medium heads radicchio cored, leaves removed and torn into bite size pieces
½ small head red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 cup arugula leaves
2 endives, trimmed, leaves removed and halved lengthwise
2 Fuji or Royal Gala apples, cored, quartered and cut into ¼-inch slices
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper

1. Make the dressing: In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil and a splash of water. Taste for seasoning.  Set aside.

2. Fry the chickpeas: In a medium pot, heat the canola oil to 350°. Spoon the cayenne into a strainer. Towel dry any moisture from the exterior of the chickpeas and use a slotted spoon to add the chickpeas carefully to the oil. Fry in batches until crispy, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a kitchen towel. Season with salt and an even light dusting of the cayenne.

3. Assemble the salad: When ready to serve, toss the cucumber, radicchio and cabbage together in the bowl and stir to coat with the dressing. Gently toss in the arugula, endive and apples. Season with salt and cracked black pepper. Sprinkle with chickpeas.

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How to turn this into a whole meal:

-Roast some chicken breasts with the skin on until they are cooked through and then slice and serve warm with the salad coated with a little of the remaining dressing. That crispy skin really adds the richness this salad needs.

-Seared or grilled hanger or skirt steak is great with this salad. I cook and allow the meat to rest for a bit then slice and serve warm with the salad. I love to put a little cayenne pepper on the steak before cooking to give the dish a little heat.

-Seared or grilled shrimp is also one of my favorite things to add to this salad. I buy a U10 size peeled and deveined shrimp. If you want to pack in even more flavor, marinate the shrimp in some grated fresh ginger and garlic before cooking.

-Want something outside the box? Sear a small pork chop until cooked through and drizzle with a spoonful of the salad dressing. Let it rest and then slice and serve on top of the salad.

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