As we prepare to roll out of the fourth month of cooking at home and into our fifth month, my culinary creativity is tenuous at best. A few weeks ago, when we were already exhausted from cooking and meal planning, we survived on two weeks of sandwiches tossed with a few tuna salad plates. Now, with a new wave of coronavirus surging across the country, luckily, the prolific offerings of summer are here to help us out. And just in time.
Juicy watermelon, gorgeous and plentiful lettuce, zucchini, squash, spring onions, cucumbers and ripe heirloom tomatoes are in full swing at the Santa Fe Farmers Market–and hopefully at your farmers market as well. The summer bounty inspires so many potential meal ideas and many that don’t even require cooking, per se.
While I do love cooking, I love eating more which is why salads are my thing in the heat of the summer. In fact, every time I turn on the oven when it’s already hot outside, I cringe and it better be for a good reason–like this or this. That’s one of the reasons why I want salad as a meal. But most salads aren’t hearty enough to stand alone.
This is not one of those. This salad is a full-on meal and one that you won’t soon forget. Think antipasto plate bumps into an Italian salad. It’s big and bold and beautiful.
Salad as a Meal
The best part is its versatility. It can be made as-is or without the salami and cheese so vegans will love it just as much as omnivores, gluten-free and paleo types. Romaine hearts or iceberg? Your choice. Nancy Silverton’s original recipe from The Mozza Cookbook calls for iceberg, as does Deb Perlman’s version on smittenkitchen.com, but I choose Romaine hearts.
Two strong lettuces–romaine heart and radicchio–are combined with a colorful variation of substantive chickpeas, paper-thin slices of red onion, sliced and pickled pepperoncini peppers and juicy cherry tomatoes. An oregano and garlic-laden vinaigrette bring it all together while ribbons of provolone and salami turn this salad into a healthy summer meal you’ll want to enjoy long into the fall.
If you are leaving off the salami and cheese, add roasted red pepper strips and olives for a few more layers of flavor and drops of color. They say we eat with our eyes and this salad will bring everyone to the table.
Nancy's Chopped Salad
As much as I love salads, what I really want during the hot summer months is a salad that eats like a meal. And one that everyone loves--even the meat-eaters and vegans. This is the one. Trust me.
For the oregano-garlic vinaigrette
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano Sicilian variety is the best, if you can find it
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice this is about 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad
- 1 can chickpeas drained
- 1 small red onion paper thin slices
- 1/2 lb provolone get a chunk and then cut it into 1/4" ribbons
- 1/2 lb salami get a chunk and then cut it in 1/4" ribbons
- 6 pepperoncini peppers sliced and stems removed
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 heads Romaine heart or iceberg lettuce
- 1 head radicchio halved, cored and cut into 1/4" ribbons
- 1/4 cup roasted red pepper optional
- 1/4 cup black and green olives optional
Roughly chop the garlic and then add the oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and up to 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Using a pestle, grind the mixture together to make a grainy herb paste. Add the lemon juice and red wine vinegar and, using a fork, stir well to combine so the salt dissolves. Then, using the fork, whisk in the oil until it's emulsified. The dressing should be thick with garlic and oregano.
In a large salad bowl, add the chickpeas, red onion, provolone, salami and pepperoncini (including seeds and juice). If using roasted red peppers and olives, add them also.
Gently add the lettuces and tomatoes to the salad bowl and dress with half the vinaigrette. Toss to combine, taste and add more vinaigrette, if needed, and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Serve immediately. Reserve any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator.