Recipe: Italian Chopped Salad with Creamy Garlic Vinaigrette

Recipes from The Kitchn

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Have you ever spent months, years even, trying to replicate a recipe from a favorite restaurant? I've been trying to perfect this chopped salad since the day I first tasted it at my beloved red-sauce Italian joint in L.A., and I'm proud to say I think I finally nailed it. (Sans the red checkered tablecloths.)

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When I lived in California, there was a little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant about a half mile from my house. It was in a shady sort of strip mall, squished between a Wendy's donuts and a 7-11. But the food? Let's just say the chicken Parmesan was 'last meal' material. Everything was served in abundance, including (especially!) the garlic, and it was all served well.

My roommates and I ordered dinner for takeout on a weekly basis. We split the house chopped salad for the whole lot of us; it was enough to feed a small army. The intensely flavored garlic dressing was the best part, and thankfully nobody seemed to mind that we all reeked. At least we all reeked together!

Since moving back to the South, I have spent many, many hours trying to recreate that dressing (because let's face it, the dressing is what makes the salad). I played with various ingredients and lots of different quantities, but I could never get it quite right. Finally I decided to go with the "less is more" attitude, and that's when I actually nailed it! (Go figure.)

This is a crazy-pungent yet crazy-good dressing. When you taste it by itself you may fall out of your chair, but it blends perfectly once tossed with all of the other components of the salad. That said, you may not want to be smooching anybody right after dinner, unless they happened to eat the salad also. And then, by all means, go for it!

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Italian Chopped Salad with Creamy Garlic Vinaigrette

Serves 2 to 4

For the dressing:
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 large egg yolk, preferably organic
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
8 ounces (about 1 heaping cup) cooked, chopped chicken breast
6 to 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 ounces Genoa salami, chopped
2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 to 2 large romaine hearts, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped and soaked in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes
1 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing, combine the garlic, oil, vinegar, egg yolk, sugar, mustard, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a blender, and process until creamy and smooth, 30 to 60 seconds.

For the salad, combine the chicken, bacon, salami, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, garbanzo beans, mozzarella, and Parmesan in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and gently toss until mixed. Add enough dressing to lightly coat. Taste and add more dressing, salt, and pepper if desired.

(Images: Nealey Dozier)

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