A chopped salad is a great way to make use of whatever you’ve got on hand in the kitchen. Throw one together when you are short on time or are trying to avoid another trip to the grocery store. Experiment with ingredients to find flavor combinations you like. There’s just one rule: Use a knife — preferably a big chopping knife — to cut ingredients into bite-sized bits that are roughly the same size.
Chopped salad: What is it?
Chopped salads typically have fewer leafy greens and sometimes none at all. Heavier ingredients — proteins, vegetables, fruit, grains, beans and nuts — play a starring role, making chopped salads substantial, filling and perfect in winter, when fresh greens are expensive and out of season.
A tossed salad, by comparison, is lighter and made mostly of greens that have been torn, not cut. Heavier ingredients are bit players.
Cut ’em up
The trick to making chopped salads is cutting ingredients into pieces of roughly equal size. There’s a reason for this: When each component of your salad is about the same weight everything tosses together well, giving each serving some of every ingredient. With salads made mostly of greens, heavy goodies can sink to the bottom of the salad bowl.
In a chopped salad, use leafy greens by all means. Lettuce, arugula, beet greens, chard and spinach all work well. Chop them into smallish bites. Experiment with tougher, denser greens like romaine or kale, which hold their own when paired with heavy chunks of meat, cheese and nuts.
Massage or shred?
For salad-worthy kale, chop it into fine ribbons. Or massage it, Yes, massage. Here’s how to pull off this easy trick, tenderizing raw kale in a hurry:
- After washing and drying kale leaves, cut out the woody center stems and chop it into bite-sized pieces.
- Grab a handful and crunch it or roll it in your fist and rub it between your fingers and palms. You’ll feel the plant’s stiff fibers crunch and then relax.
- Knead stiff kale into silky, darker tender salad greens for a few seconds before it’s ready to use.
Proteins often play a key role. Possibilities include:
- Sliced deli meats, salami, leftover roasted chicken, beef, lamb, pork, and smoked or cooked fish. (If you’re short on time, visit a salad bar for a selection of protein.)
- Hard-boiled eggs.
- Chicken breasts: Pull a couple from the freezer, thaw them in cold water and saute (or roast the meat at 400 degrees, seasoned and rubbed with olive oil) before chopping.
- Canned (drained) tuna or salmon.
- Tofu: a no-fat source of plant protein that helps protect your heart health. Drain and dry it before chopping. Marinate it if there’s time. Best of all, buy tofu that’s seasoned and roasted or barbecued.
- A dollop of hummus adds flavor and protein.
- Cheese — shredded, chunked or crumbled — is another tasty ingredient. It’s high-fat but also high-flavor, so you won’t need much. Consider a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese. Or grate a hard cheese like Parmesan or Asiago.
- Cooked beans are perfect no-fat, high-nutrition source of protein. Cook beans ahead of time (here’s how) and freeze them in meal-sized portions. Or pull a can of beans from the shelf, drain the liquid and pat them dry before adding to your salad.