cobb salad 88.
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We all know that traveling is a challenge to diets. Still, on a recent trip to several national parks in the western US, my sister-in-law Ety and I decided to try our best to find vegetable dishes, even when our husbands chose restaurants that specialized in hearty foods.
On vacations like this, one ends up sometimes having to eat at fast food or "greasy spoon" eateries, where entrees like burgers and fried chicken are menu staples. That had been my experience in the past, but, luckily for us, this time was different. Entree salads were easy to find, even at the "Golden Arches" and at a variety of mom-and-pop and chain restaurants.
A favorite of ours was the cobb salad. Created at a Hollywood restaurant called the Brown Derby in the early 20th century, this colorful salad became popular in many California restaurants and delis and eventually turned into a party classic in American home kitchens.
Most versions of cobb salad are made of a generous bed of greens tossed with a vinaigrette dressing, then topped with colorful ingredients, which turn it into a flavorful, fresh-looking main course. The usual toppings are diced tomatoes, chopped hard-boiled eggs, diced avocados and crumbled Roquefort or blue cheese. Most versions call for chicken and smoked meat, but we found it easy to get our salads without these toppings. The tasty dressing usually contains olive oil, wine vinegar, mustard and garlic, and sometimes Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of sugar. A sprinkling of fresh herbs provides the finishing touch. Chives are customary, but some chefs prefer tarragon or basil.
To me, cobb salad seems to be an assortment of someone's favorite salad foods set on a mound of lettuce. Although it's an American salad, elegant versions call for arranging the ingredients attractively in separate rows, like a French salade composee.
The greens of this whole-meal salad vary with the cook's taste. Some use mild, crunchy iceberg lettuce, others prefer the hearty taste of romaine and still others mix both types and add bitter greens such as curly endive, watercress or radicchio. I think spinach or baby greens would be good choices too.
Norman Kolpas, author of Whole Meal Salads, prepares both chicken and turkey cobb salads, and even a seafood cobb salad sprinkled with fresh dill. To make the topping even more attractive, he suggests chopping the hard-boiled egg yolks and whites separately, a trick I learned at cooking school in Paris. There we used the eggs to garnish a vegetable salad called "mimosa salad" (because the yellow and white chopped eggs suggest mimosa flowers).
Some people toss the ingredients of their cobb salads together but Christopher Idone, the author of Salad Days, feels that keeping the ingredients separate produces a salad that not only looks prettier, but tastes better too. He departs from the traditional vinaigrette, preferring a rich, creamy dressing made of sour cream, mayonnaise and buttermilk and flavored with green onions, celery seed and tarragon.
To make this type of salad more substantial, some turn it into a tostada, an entree piled on a crisp fried or baked tortilla (Mexican flatbread). Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman, authors of The Well-Filled Tortilla, make such a salad by covering the crisp tortilla base with shredded lettuce, then with chopped tomatoes, grated or crumbled cheese and cooked chicken breast strips seasoned with chili powder, and finally crowning it with avocado cubes and black olives. A spicy tomato dressing completes the lively, fresh entree.
KOSHER COBB SALAD
Start the salad with the time-honored topping of avocado, tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs. Then add either cooked chicken and smoked meat, or use Roquefort type cheese instead. I find oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes or black olives make flavorful pareve substitutes for the smoked meat.
Either version, when arranged on a bed of greens moistened with well seasoned vinaigrette, makes a light, tasty supper entree.
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. white or red wine vinegar
5 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley (optional)
2 hard-boiled eggs
4 to 6 cups chopped iceberg or romaine lettuce or a mixture of both
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 cups thin skinless strips of roasted or grilled chicken or 1â„2 cup crumbled Roquefort cheese
2 ripe medium-sized avocados, preferably Haas
1â„2 cup chopped smoked turkey or other smoked meat (optional, if not using cheese)
1â„2 cup strips of oil-cured sun-dried tomatoes or 1â„2 cup black olives, halved and pitted
2 tsp. chopped chives
In a medium bowl whisk mustard with vinegar. Whisk in oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley.
A short time before serving, halve hard-boiled eggs and remove yolks. Chop egg whites and egg yolks separately.
Toss the greens with half the dressing in a large mixing bowl and arrange on a platter. Sprinkle chopped egg whites in a row across the greens, then a row of chopped yolks and rows of diced fresh tomatoes, chicken strips, avocado, smoked turkey and sun-dried tomatoes. Spoon remaining dressing over toppings or serve it separately. Serve salad sprinkled with chives.
Makes 4 servings.
Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.