Introducing The Ultimate Chopped Salad. A delicious jewel that will take your everyday lunch to the next level.
This Ultimate Chopped Salad became a staple in my diet when I moved part-time to Italy. I was trying to figure out a way to mix in a salad with my daily mealplan.
Don’t get me wrong, I love pasta and treats but too much of a good thing can be unhealthy. Most Italians don’t serve salad as a meal. It’s typically a side dish and served after the meal. In the U.S. we have plenty of salad-centric restaurants and a soup and salad or a sandwich and salad is considered a healthy and delicious meal. I don’t expect to find any salad bars around here! A U.S. supermarket will typically carry lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and cucumbers but that’s not enough to sustain most of us as a primary meal. I decided to come up with something on my own.
For anyone who enjoys variety, I know that eating the exact same thing every day for lunch sounds awful. But women in the cast of the sitcom Friends did exactly this for a decade with one very special dish, which they nicknamed the “Jennifer Salad”. We ate the same food: a “Jennifer Salad,” Courtney Cox explained as their daily lunch ritual for 10 years. Jennifer Aniston may not be eating salads with her castmates anymore, but the American actress changed her beloved salad recipe just a little bit. She calls it “My perfect salad – Bulgur, cucumbers, parsley, red onion, garbanzo beans, feta cheese, & pistachios,” she wrote in the accompanying caption.
So, I decided to give Aniston’s salad a try. Why? For starters, Aniston’s salad is a balanced meal with just the right amounts of vegetables, carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Plus, knowing that it’s a balanced meal, I don’t have to worry about eating the same thing every day. I know I’m putting something good into my body. So with some minor modifications, I created The Ultimate Chopped Salad. I removed the pistachios since they cause me to break out and developed my own salad dressing since Aniston eats hers without it. Yes, you heard that right. Jennifer prefers her salad without dressing. I also add some fruit to mine as I find that something sweet in there goes really well; like cheese with jam.
I’ve also made this salad with different ingredients. Pretty much what I could find available here in Italy. Today I’m happy to report that this has become my daily salad as well. Because A, this salad is a balanced meal with just the right amounts of vegetables, carbs, proteins, and healthy fats. B, it’s kind of addictive. C, I can always find the ingredients here in Italy or at least substitute them and D, it’s a crowd-pleaser. Every one of my friends who have tried it loved it! Many are now making it on a daily basis. Like me, they don’t want to have pasta or a panini sandwich for lunch every day.
COOK’S NOTES: If there is an ingredient in this salad you’re not particularly fond of, simply leave it out, or replace it with something else. You could substitute the bulgur for the quinoa. It will taste just as good. I choose quinoa over bulgar since it has more protein, but it’s important to note that bulgur has half of the calories of quinoa. I prepare my quinoa or bulgur in advance and keep it in the fridge until it is completely cool before adding the other ingredients. This way, the quinoa or bulgur won’t warm up the salad.
Bring this salad to a potluck dinner, picnic, or barbecue. You’ll be the star of the party!
The Ultimate Chopped Salad
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 diced cucumbers.
- 1 15oz. can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained.
- half red onion thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint.
- 1/2 cup cubed feta cheese.
- 1/2 cup quartered strawberries
- 1/4 cup apricot balsamic vinegar or white balsamic
- 2 tbsp juice lemon or half juiced lemon
- 1/2 tbsp honey mustard
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt & pepper to taste
- Bring 1 ¾ cup of water to a boil. Add 1 cup of quinoa. Bring to a rolling boil, stir, turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook for 15 minutes covered. Turn off heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, open lid and fluff with a fork. Your quinoa should have absorbed all the water, if not, return to heat for a few more minutes. Uncover the pot. Stir the quinoa. Let the quinoa cool for at least 20 minutes until it’s room temperature. Separate what you need. Refrigerate the rest.
- Make the salad dressing. In a small glass container, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, the lemon juice, mustard, sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the extra virgin olive oil and whisk until the olive oil is emulsified into the dressing. Set aside.
- Peel and slice the cucumbers, peel and thin slice the red onions, chop the parsley and the mint.
- Cut the feta cheese into cubes and cut the strawberries into quarters.
- Mix all the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Separate the amount of salad you are going to serve and pour some salad dressing over it until incorporated. Taste it. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you like more dressing, add more. Otherwise reserve leftover dressing for the next salad.