My mother made a mean Seven-Layer Salad back in the day. And still does, I'm happy to report. A classic 70's dish, Seven-Layer Salad offers much in the way of practicality: it's assembled ahead of time, easy to transport, lovely to look at (especially if you use a clear glass bowl) but, most importantly, it's a crowd pleaser. Oh, and it has bacon.
There are hundreds of versions of Seven Layer Salad. Some have ingredients like taco cheese and sugar (up to 1/2 cup!) but it there are also versions that contain a more contemporary approach that include parmesan cheese, pesto or roasted nuts.
Either way, there are a few basics to follow. Start with a crisp lettuce such as iceberg or romaine for the first layer and always include the following elements: peas, mayonnaise, cheese and bacon. The other layers usually are a variation on salad vegetables and can be adjusted to your taste. Here are a few suggestions:
sliced or halved hard boiled eggs
green onion, thinly sliced
button mushrooms, thinly sliced
red or green pepper, finely chopped
The version I made today had a lot more to do with what was in my refrigerator than any sense of fidelity to a recipe which proves my point on how versatile a Seven-Layer Salad can be. And this isn't a haiku--if you want to make it an 8-layer salad or 5-layer salad, we won't kick you out of the club.
Today's Seven-Layer Salad
8 cups shredded crisp lettuce such as iceberg or romaine, washed and dried
1 cup peas (frozen is OK, thawed in a colander)
1 cup finely chopped red onion*
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup mayonnaise (Best or Hellman's)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 pound bacon, fried and drained
garnish: 1/4 cup of pinenuts and basil sprigs
Place lettuce in a glass bowl. Sprinkle on the peas, then the onion and celery. Dot on the mayonnaise and using a butter knife, connect the dots and spread the mayo to a smooth even layer. Sprinkle on the cheese and then the bacon. Garnish with the pinenuts and basil.
* Tip: If your onion is too strong, place it in a colander or strainer and pour very hot water over it for a few seconds. Rinse with cold water and shake a few times to drain the water off.
(Image: Dana Velden)