Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cape Cod Chopped Salad

Ok, so I know what you're thinking. A salad...really? Do I really need a recipe to tell me how to make a salad? Apparently Ina thinks so because there are about 5 of them in Back to Basics. But since I like making homemade dressing and I think some of her flavor combinations are interesting, I don't think the salad posts will be too boring, so try to bear with me. 

Of the few in Back to Basics, I chose this salad because I knew I could get everything I needed at the regular grocery store. Additionally, I knew this wouldn't take that long or be too labor intensive, and since I had a job interview to worry about in the afternoon, I wanted something relatively stress-free. In order to make some of the more exciting dishes, I want to get the best fall produce I can find which, hopefully, I'll be able to get at the little farmer's market that is held every Tuesday, practically right around the corner. Now, who has the time to go to a farmer's market in the middle of the day on Tuesdays, I'm not sure. But thanks to my (un)employment status, I do! So once I check that out and see what produce is available, I'll start working on some of the more interesting dishes, I promise.

Scene Change: You'll notice that the background in these pictures is different than in my previous post. This is because I made the French Apple Tart in my mom's kitchen while visiting for the weekend, but now that I'm back in Richmond, the kitchen you'll see in pictures is the one in Dan's house.

To get started with the salad, I preheated the oven and laid out some bacon on a baking rack that was set over a sheet pan
Hello boys

and put this in the oven to get crispy. Now, I know that as a Jew, bacon isn't technically suppossed to be part of my diet, and usually, it's not. But generally I avoid it because it is usually undercooked for my taste. I like my bacon really crispy. Really, really crispy. Roasting bacon in the oven like this is perfect for this kind of crispness because all the fat drips down onto the baking sheet, as opposed to the bacon simply boiling in it on the stove. It's also a lot easier. Ok, enough about the bacon. 

Oh, there should be a picture here of Dan's dog, Jager, sitting at my feet, looking up at me with his big Hound eyes, waiting for me to walk away so he could snatch a piece of bacon off the pan. Jager's a little camera shy though (as opposed to Layla who is a camera whore), but I'm sure he'll pop up eventually.

Next, I chopped some walnuts and put them in a dry saute pan over medium-low heat to toast slightly. After about 5 minutes, I put them into the salad bowl with an equal amount of dried cranberries. 

To make the dressing, I whisked apple cider vinegar, orange zest and juice,  Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and salt and pepper together in a small bowl, and measured out the olive oil.


By now, the bacon was smelling yummy and looking nice and crispy so it was time to take it out of the oven to let cool.

Ina suggests leaving the bacon in the oven for about 2o minutes, but I left it in a little longer, (probably about 5-7 minutes more) since, as you all know by now, I like my bacon super crispy. 

While the bacon cooled, (and I was on the phone with my mother getting details about a wedding I had missed over the weekend) Dan, lured to the kitchen by the irresistible smell of bacon, peeled a Granny Smith apple, which I then diced and added to the walnuts and cranberries. Next, I added baby arugula to the salad bowl along with the bacon, which Dan had diced, trying hard not to eat more than a few pieces. To finish the dressing, I slowly whisked the olive oil into the rest of the ingredients.

I sprinkled some crumbled blue cheese over the salad and added some of the dressing, tossing to combine. As instructed, I waited until the last second to add the dressing and tried not to overdress the salad (which was a slight challenge as I had made the full amount of dressing but had cut the salad size in half). Here is how it looked tossed together in the salad bowl

To make this into a more substantial dinner, I sauteed some chicken breasts, sliced them, and added them to our individual portions right before serving. And here is the final product

Overall, I would say that this salad didn't quite meet my expectations. Dan, however, was the harsher critic; he found it thoroughly substandard, with the bacon and orange combination truly offensive. He expected more from you, Ina (he still cleaned his plate, and mine, but that's beside the point). I, on the other hand, am a little more protective over Ina and her choices. After all, I wouldn't want to say or do anything that might ruin my chances of being invited to cook with her at her fabulous house in the Hamptons... 

Hey, it could happen.

The biggest problem was the overwhelming taste of orange in the dressing. Theoretically the orange juice and maple syrup should have added sweetness to counteract the bitterness of the arugula, but the orange zest was much too overpowering. The dressing was more sour than sweet and didn't mesh well with all the other elements of the salad. The following night we even gave the dressing a second chance, drizzling it on some baby arugula to determine if it would be better in a simpler presentation, but this was actually worse. The sourness of the dressing just enhanced the bitterness of the greens, with no added sweetness or saltiness to distract from it.

When it comes to salads, I'm also a purist; I want veggies in my salad bowl, not fruit. But the apple was actually one of my favorite parts of this salad, and surprisingly, I didn't hate the dried cranberries, which normally, like the walnuts, would have been picked out and placed on someone else's plate (I told you, palate, and table manners, of a 12-year-old). The saltiness of the bacon and blue cheese was also yummy with the sweet fruit, although I found the cheese to be a little strong for my taste.

Make this when: you've got some bacon left over from Sunday morning breakfast and are looking for a satisfying lunch or light dinner. You're not going to the extra trouble of cooking the bacon and if it doesn't turn out well, it's no big deal. 

Next Course: Indonesian Grilled Swordfish


  1. Mmmmm now I want bacon! :)

    This salad sounds interesting and I am glad you are being so honest about how the recipes actually turn out...though I do like orange a lot so maybe I wills till give this salad dressing a chance! That being said that salad still looks very yummy! I only wish I had been there to give my taste input!

  2. Most of my friends or for that matter anyone who actually shares a meal with me assumes that salad is my favorite thing because it figures largely into my daily menu.It is certainly not because it is my favorite meal but rather I can "bank" those extra WW points. So, any recipe for a fun salad goes a long way for me. Unlike you I do like fruit AND LOTS OF CHEESE in my salad so I will surely give this one a try.


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