Maybe it’s just because I’m a girl, but I love almost any kind of salad—and the more ingredients, the better. “Chopped salad,” a catchall for any salad boasting a rich variety of chopped vegetables, is my favorite.
This recipe was inspired by a low-fat dish I first encountered several years ago in Gourmet. Created by Chef Ed Brown of New York’s Sea Grill Restaurant, its most interesting ingredients were chickpeas and diced dill pickles. As a big fan of crunch, I transported those two items to my everyday chopped salad and then, for good measure, piled on some feta cheese and pita croutons.
If you find feta cheese too strong or too salty, substitute ricotta salata, an aged ricotta cheese that has a texture similar to feta but a notch or two less sharpness. As for the pita croutons, use them in any salad, as a garnish for soup, or as a partner to a dip.
Yield: Serves 6
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoons sweet or hot paprika
Three 6-inch pita breads with pockets
Kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cups loosely packed arugula
6 cups loosely packed mesclun
2 large red bell peppers, coarsely chopped
2 large yellow bell peppers, coarsely chopped
1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
1½ cups cooked or drained, rinsed, and dried canned chickpeas
1½ cups crumbled feta cheese
1½ cups diced dill pickle
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix ¼ cup of the olive oil with the cumin and paprika in a small bowl. Split each pita bread horizontally into 2 rounds and brush the rough sides with equal amounts of the oil mixture. Cut the rounds into small triangles or l-inch pieces and arrange in one flat layer on a large baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt when just out of the oven.
Whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large serving bowl until blended. Slowly pour in the remaining olive oil, whisking to form a smooth dressing.
Just before serving, pile the arugula and mesclun in the center of the bowl on top of the dressing. Surround with the peppers, tomatoes, chickpeas, feta, and pickles. Add the pita croutons, toss, and serve.
Michael Green Says: On Wine and Salad
Years ago it was a sin even to suggest serving wine with salad, and in theory the combination can present a challenge. Salads, which often contain high-acid ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice, can make wines taste flat, devoid of acidity, and accentuate their alcohol. But many of today’s salad preparations are different, containing fruit, herbs, and protein elements that balance the acidity and make them very wine friendly. The elements of Chopped Salad with Feta, Chickpeas, and Pita Croutons make this salad very wine friendly. Look for wines that are fresh and vibrant with requisite acidity to stand up to the acidity in salad. The Loire Valley whites—Muscadet, Vouvray, and Pouilly-Fumé—are excellent examples of wines that partner well with salad. If you’re looking to serve a red, seek out wines with low tannin and high acidity such as the wines of France’s Beaujolais region or the Italian grapes Dolcetto, Barbera, and Sangiovese.