Few things in this world fill me with irrational anger the way salad for dinner does. In fact, somebody please come spray me down with a hose or something because I’m getting fired up and pissy just thinking about it. That’s how deeply I cannot abide with a salad masquerading as the main course of my favorite meal of the day.
****Coming in hot with the salad drama!****
It probably has something to do with me living in a place where the evenings are always (always. Literally always.) chilly, but the idea of a cold supper that is not sushi sounds totally lackluster and unsatisfying. While I’m all for the sensible, mindful eating, my-body-is-a-temple vibe on a conceptual level, salad for dinner really only happens at chez moi when there’s penance to be paid for having too much fun, and in general I prefer to err on the "too much fun" side when given the choice because life is too short for dinner to suck.
But if there’s one cold salad in the whole wide world that I actually wouldn’t mind eating for dinner (yeah, you know what’s coming), it’s this one. Nancy’s Chopped Salad from Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. Truth be told, I’d eat this salad for any meal, and I have. Even breakfast, because while I’ve got strict designs on evening mealtime (i.e., veggies, served up hot, preferably with wine) my only rule for breakfast is No Rules. Yes I did just say that I've eaten this for breakfast, more than once in fact, and I regret nothing.
As far as chopped salads go, it gets everything right: the refreshing crisp of iceberg and radicchio; the punctuating piquancy of cherry tomatoes, red onion, and pepperoncini; the chickpeas that add heft and protein to fill you up; the salami and provolone that make it taste like the Italian sub of Liz Lemon’s dreams. I dare you to find one thing not to love about it, and believe me I’ve tried because, like I said, dinner salads are dead to me. All of them except this one. It lives on in my heart and my belly, and it might be nice in yours too. I serve it with a big piece of garlic bread and then pat myself on the back because I ate salad for dinner, it did not suck, and I might even get to holler at the leftovers for breakfast.
Nancy's Chopped Salad, adapted from the LA Times
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salad and assembly
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, or 2 cups cooked from fresh
1/2 small red onion, peeled and sliced into paper-thin rings
4 oz. (1/4 pound) provolone, cut into thin 1/2 -inch ribbons
4 oz. (1/4 pound) pound salami, peeled, sliced, and cut into thin 1/2 -inch ribbons
4 medium or 8 small pickled pepperoncini, sliced into rings (approx 1/2 cup if pre-sliced)
3/4 pound (one 10.5 container) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 head iceberg lettuce, cored, and chopped or ripped into bite-sized pieces
1 head radicchio, cored and chopped or ripped into bite-sized pieces
Roughly chop the garlic and then add the oregano, salt and pepper. Chop the mixture together and smear it into the cutting board using the side of a knife (or a mortar and pestle) to make a grainy herb paste.
Transfer the paste to a large salad bowl, and add the lemon juice and vinegar. Mix with a fork, allowing the salt to dissolve, then add the oil and whisk with a fork until well combined. The dressing should be thick and lumpy with garlic and oregano.
Gently fold the chickpeas, red onion, provolone, salami, pepperoncini (including seeds and juice), and cherry tomatoes into the dressing. Set aside until ready to serve.
When ready to serve add the iceberg and radicchio to the bowl and toss toss toss to combine with the dressing and fixings. Eat at once.