My Recipe Box

Chopped Salads

Intriguing textures and different flavors in every bite

by John Ash

fromFine Cooking
Issue 79

A funny thing happens when you chop ingredients into small pieces. Not only does the texture change, but the flavor changes, too. Think of the difference between a shaving of hard cheese versus a large chunk. Chances are the shaved piece tastes more interesting, more complex. Well, I think the same is true of salad ingredients, which is why I’m a big fan of chopped salads. Each ingredient is more interesting to eat and taste, and together they combine to give you something even better.

Chopped salads are a beautiful way of showing off summer’s terrific produce. I’ll often let a visit to the farmers’ market tell me what I’m going to chop up that day. What’s more, chopped salads can mostly be made ahead, with components stored separately, then arranged and dressed at the last moment before serving.

Now, it’s no secret that chopped salads require a good bit of—you guessed it—chopping. But I guarantee the nuances of flavor and intriguing textural variations you’ll get with each bite will more than reward you for the time spent at the cutting board. It’s a good idea to have a sharp knife handy, one that’s comfortable for you. I like to chop the different ingredients into small dice, keeping the size roughly uniform for all, which makes the salad both visually appealing and easy to eat (big cubes or chunks can be awkward).

I’m partial to composing my chopped salads by arranging each ingredient in separate piles or stripes on the serving platter before drizzling the dressing, as opposed to tossing everything together. I feel that when you toss a salad, each mouthful is the same, and I can’t help but think that the experience would be more interesting if I could taste each ingredient separately or create my own combinations of flavor and texture right on my plate.

Photo: Scott Phillips

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