Chopped! (salad, that is)

By Liz Krieger

When I was a teenager, I spent a fair amount of time at the mall. Oh, heck: Who am I kidding? I spent A LOT of time there. I wasn’t hanging out with a gang of friends scouting for boys, though; most of the time I was with my mom. We’d stroll from store to store until we were good and hungry, and then make a beeline for our favorite casual restaurant. I always ordered the same thing: the “Garbage Salad.” But trust me, there was nothing about this salad that was less-than-healthy or otherwise gross. Instead, it contained pretty much every healthy thing except the kitchen sink: tomatoes, peppers, radishes, cucumbers, corn, peas, carrots and, as I recall, about ten other items, including some cheese (not too much), meat (a little), nuts and seeds. It was heaven.

Even better, someone else was in charge of all that chopping and tossing, and the result was a concoction of healthy ingredients rich in phytochemicals—those special nutrients in colorful fruits and vegetables. Since I’ve made no secret of my own impatience with chopping, I decided to work through by sharpening up the chef’s knife and attempting to recreate this bountiful salad of my past. So, without further ado, allow me to brag a bit about what I chopped:

  • radishes
  • beets (extra step required!! boiling and peeling!!)
  • fresh corn (although I guess shearing it from the cob doesn’t really count?)
  • cucumbers
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • red pepper
  • green pepper
  • yellow pepper
  • tomatoes
  • scallions
  • onions
  • carrots
  • zucchini
  • chopped walnuts and almonds

Not only did I chop all these buggers—but I chopped em small! Diced, almost! Nothing larger than a dime! I felt like my ears were ringing for 10 minutes afterward from the sound of that knife banging on the board. The best part about it and something that I think anyone can relate to is that there is NO RECIPE required. You need not fret over a cup of this, a sprig of that, or a fistful of something else. It’s truly a garbage salad, and whatever you have goes. Fresh stuff, canned stuff (artichokes, beans, or corn would be fab) and thawed items. It sort of all goes together in a delicious mess. No, it’s not as sophisticated or subtle as your more refined pear-walnut-Gorgonzola composition, but I love how I was able to use what I had on hand and transform it simply by chopping it finely. And lest we forget, I packed in a ton of nutrients: beta carotene, lutein, protein, fiber, vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids.

For the dressing, I combined olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey mustard, salt, pepper and lemon juice. I sort of just messed around with the proportions until it felt right-—or at least until my husband said it wasn’t too vinegary or too oily! (Some people are like Goldilocks with their dressing tastes!)

All it all, it was a great replica of something I loved as a young adult, and now that my health awareness is firmly entrenched, it’s my favorite accomplishment to date. Do you have a go-to salad that incorporates your favorite veggies and packs a powerful punch? Tell me, tell me!


More Articles You May Find Interesting

Okra? Oh yeah!

By Sidra Forman I know that okra is somewhat controversial: People tend to either love it or hate it. Wherever you fall, I suggest you try roasting fresh okra, which is my favorite way to prepare...

A Fish Tale

By Liz Krieger Full disclosure: I had a bit of help with this week’s cooking escapade. You see, I spent the weekend at my parent’s house in the suburbs, and the bountiful harvest in their refrigerator...

All About Avocados

By Sidra Forman, Chef We’re at the start of California avocado season, which runs from April to August this year. That means you’re buying fresher fruit (yes, avocados are technically fruits) and supporting a domestic industry....