Did you have a good Easter/Passover/Weekend? The weather on Sunday was glorious, but now it's grey, cold, wet, and windy. Icky weather calls for something bright and sunny to cheer you up. How about a lovely Fiesta Salad?
Huge salads piled high with tons of tasty bites are great for a large crowd of people; they're fast and easy to throw together and always taste so good. I made this salad for Sunday lunch and there was enough for 9 people (with tons of leftovers, but it did get a bit soggy by the next day. Still good though).
Don't be put off by the list of ingredients, you don't have to add everything and you don't have to take the extra step of pickling radish or roasting peppers. You can always buy jarred or canned items to save time; they still taste great!
Originally, this was supposed to be a Greek Cobb salad with a few more ingredients than I used (marinated and cooked chicken, marinated chickpeas), but I found that I didn't really need them and I ended up not having enough room on the salad platter.
Note: If you are going to make your own pickled radish or roasted red pepper, it's best to make them a day or so ahead of time.
3 heads romaine lettuce*, washed very well and chopped into bite sized pieces (except for the tender inner leaves; I left them whole because they are so pretty)
3 large ripe tomato (or a basket of cherry tomatoes); washed and sliced into quarters
1 large jar of artichoke hearts (packed in water, not oil), drained
1 large jar of roasted red bell peppers, drained and sliced into thin strips (or make your own, see how below)
10-12 pickled radish, thinly sliced (see how to make your own below) or any type of jarred pickled vegetable of your choice (onion, okra, etc)
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, drained
2-3 Hard boiled eggs, sliced into quarters
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup feta cheese (optional)
2 ripe avocado, cubed or sliced
Lemon Olive Oil Dressing
Fresh lemon juice (do not use bottled)
Olive Oil, good quality
1 garlic clove (minced very finely)
Mustard (stone ground)
Salt and Pepper to taste
How to Assemble Salad
1. Place washed and dried romaine lettuce on a very large platter; pile it up all the way to the edges. It's ok if it's messy.
2. Working your way from one side to the other, arrange your ingredients across the salad; I did chickpeas, pickled radish, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, roasted red bell pepper, and avocado (I forgot to put the eggs and feta cheese on in this picture) in a loose diagonal pattern. You can arrange it any way you like, you could even toss it all together right before serving. We don't need to get fussy about our salads.
How to Make Dressing
1. Pour equal parts fresh lemon juice and olive oil in a jar with a lid that closes tightly; how much you want to use is up to you. If you want a lot of dressing, do 1/4 c of each and adjust to taste as you go along.
2. Add finely minced garlic, salt, pepper, and mustard. Again, it's totally up to you how much you want to put in. Start with 1 T of mustard and adjust as you go. Cap the jar and shake vigorously. Taste and adjust seasoning, olive oil, and lemon juice if wanted. Give jar another shake before serving salad and people can help themselves to the amount of dressing they want. I am NOT a big dressing person and feel sick if I have a salad that tastes like it took a shower in dressing, so I like a little drizzle over top. This way everyone can have their salad the way they like it.
*We have the unfortunate problem of Rat Lungworm disease that can be transmitted from local produce here in Hawaii; it is usually via an infected slug or snail on fresh produce that has not been washed well (or at all). In order to be super careful, I first peeled off each leaf under running water and placed them all in a colander. I gave them another very good rinse under running water and I rinsed them again in the colander after chopping (taking care not to use the cutting board and knife on any other produce until it was washed and sanitized). You can also run them through a salad spinner a few times (romaine is pretty robust and can take a good wash); I used to use an industrial sized one when I worked in a restaurant. Those things got rid of everything!
10-12 thinly sliced radish
Water + boiling water
1 T White Sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
1-2 large cloves of sliced or minced garlic
Additional spices/herbs if desired
1. Thinly slice radish. You can either place them in a colander and pour a good amount of boiling water over them or blanch them for a few seconds in boiling water. I usually put on my electric kettle while I'm slicing them, put them in the colander, and pour boiling water over them. The point is to cook them enough to take a bit of the bite out, but you don't want them mushy or too soft.
2. Pour equal parts water and white vinegar in a bowl (1c + 1c is a good place to start), add 1 T of white sugar, salt, pepper, and minced or sliced garlic. Give it a stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Place radish in bowl and stir to make sure all are somewhat submerged in the mixture. Add your extra spices or herbs (minced oregano, rosemary, cumin, chili peppers, etc) and cover bowl tightly. You could also use a Tupperware container with a tightly fitting lid. You really don't want your fridge smelling like vinegar and radish. They're potent!
3. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. The longer the radishes can soak in the mixture the better the flavor will be. Drain when you're ready to use them.
Roasted Red Bell Peppers
2-3 Red Bell Peppers; washed and dried
1. You can either broil them in the oven or blacken over an open flame on a gas stove.
2. To broil in oven, slide wire rack to top place and set oven temp to broil. Place peppers on baking sheet and broil on each side. You'll have to watch them carefully and turn when each side is nicely blackened.
3. To blacken over a flame, use a pair of metal tongs and grasp the pepper firmly. Turn flame on to high and slowly blacken each side completely. This may take a few minutes.
4. When you are happy with the way your peppers look, place them in a large glass container that has a lid (or a bowl that you can cover the top with saran wrap). Cover and let sit till the peppers are cool enough to handle. Basically, the peppers are having a sauna so that you can easily remove their skins when they are cool enough to touch. You don't have to remove every bit of blackened skin, it's ok to have some remaining. Slice into strips and serve on salad or if not using right away, cover and refrigerate till needed.