Category Archives: Salads

California Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Green Goddess Dressing © Photo by Angela GunderI love a good story, and with a name like “Green Goddess” you know there’s a bit of a tale lingering around.  An almost kitschy throwback to the 1920s and 30s, the dressing is a zesty combination of fresh herbs, anchovies and sour cream, enlivened by a little bit of lemon juice.  The name supposedly originates from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco where the dressing was made as a tribute to the hit play, “The Green Goddess,” and alas, a star was born.

My guess is that the popularity of this gem died down with the waning of favor over anchovies – a pity, really, in that the flavor profile of anchovies themselves are addictive.  If people can down caesar dressing by the gallon, what’s the deal with hating on anchovies?  It’s plain malarkey.

The recipe for this dressing is a riff off a version from Food and Wine Magazine used to dress a chicken salad.  My husband took a look at the picture and said, “This would be great without all of that other mess around it.” “So you mean just the dressing?” “Yeah, pretty much.”  After a few tweaks to the recipe and a bed of greens, we were cooking with gas.

California Cobb Salad © Photo by Angela GunderSo where does a nostalgic dressing trip down memory lane take us.  To a salad with just as much historical presence. 1930 at the Hollywood Brown Derby heralded the chefery of Robert Cobb and Chuck Wilson – apparently the owner Cobb wandered around the kitchen looking for something awesome to eat and threw together a crazy amalgamation of greens, bacon, eggs, avocado and blue cheese.  I can appreciate a late-night scrounge for munchies, if I do say so myself.

In plating this salad, I love a careful presentation of each ingredient segmented into its own section.  Something about the vibrant colors in their own spots just waiting to be mixed together with the lovely dressing is an impressor and a half.  As you know, it’s all about the presentation…says the designer.

Recipe for

California Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

1/2 c. of parsley leaves, loosely packed
1/2 c. of basil leaves
1/4 c. of chopped dill
4 sprigs of tarragon, leaves removed and chopped
1 sprig of oregano, leaves removed and chopped
1 c. of mayonnaise
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
1/4 c. of chopped chives
salt and pepper to taste

mixed greens (baby romaine is fun)
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 perfectly hard-boiled eggs, diced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 avocado, diced
1/2 c. of crumbled blue cheese
1 boneless skinless chicken breast, halved lengthwise into two cutlets
1 tbs. of olive oil
1 tbs. of herbes des provence

Begin by making the dressing – add all of the herbs except for the chives to the food processor, along with the garlic, lemon zest and juice.  Blitz until finely chopped and then add the mayo.  Blitz again to blend and then remove to a bowl.  Stir in the chives and then season with salt and pepper.  Chill.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  While that warms, season the chicken with the herbes des provence and salt and pepper.  Sear the chicken until it is cooked through and browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and let cool slightly.  Cube chicken and set aside.

Grab a large platter and make a bed of greens.  Arrange the tomatoes, chopped eggs, chopped bacon, avocado, blue cheese and chicken in a pretty splay.  Right before serving, toss the salad and top with the Green Goddess dressing.  Tuck in and get down.

Purple Potatoes Vinaigrette

This salad is the perfect tribute to summer, giving traditional mayo-laden potato salad a run for the money.  Tender potatoes soak in a vibrant dressing full of basil and garlic, imparting mounds of flavor.  Give this one a twirl at your next barbecue – it’s the perfect partner to grilled meats.

Purple Potatoes Vinaigrette

1 lb of purple creamer potatoes, halved
4 tbs. of pesto, homemade or jarred (here’s a recipe for Watercress Pesto)
2 tbs. of red wine vinegar
1/3 c. of olive oil
1 cl. of garlic, minced
salt and pepper (to taste)
3 plum tomatoes, diced

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in potatoes and then cook until fork tender. Drain the potatoes well and toss into the fridge to cool.

Whisk the pesto, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Toss potatoes with tomatoes and dressing. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve.

Simple Pasta Salad with Roasted Peppers, Ham and Peas

When I teach web and print design, I always talk about KISS – keep it simple, stupid. I think that some of the finest recipes are those that follow the same ideal.  You don’t need a lot of garbage amassed in a pot to make deliciousness – just a few choice ingredients well played off of each other and you are done.  Even better, with these few components in action, chances are you won’t have to do a whole lot of cooking.

Simple Pasta Salad with Roasted Peppers, Ham and Peas © Spice or Die

My sister Lexi refuses to eat mayo based cold salads, or as she likes to say, questionable sauces.  This recipe is anything but questionable – the familiar flavors of rosemary, mustard and ham elevate this pasta salad to another level, giving savory zing to where else there might be bland mayo.  You’ve got roasted peppers and peas for both sweetness and color, and a few choice spices to round things out.  Done and done.   This is my ultimate make on a Sunday and leisurely eat throughout the week kind of recipe – it keeps well, is portable, and works as lunch, dinner, side dish, late night bite, or a way to extend a meal with impromptu guests.

I use ham because I love the taste with the rosemary, but vegetarians can leave it out for an equally delicious salad.  Also worth trying is cooled, poached chicken in place of the ham.  You can follow the recipe for preparing the chicken on my recipe for Chicken Salad.

Simple Pasta Salad with Roasted Peppers, Ham and Peas

1/2 c. of low-fat or fat-free mayo
2 tbs. of dijon mustard
1 tbs. of chopped rosemary
1/4 c. of roasted red peppers, diced
1 c. of frozen peas
1 1/2 c. of diced ham
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of salt
pinch of paprika
1 lbs. of pasta (penne, farfalle, orechiete, whatever you have around)

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  When the water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook.  In the last 4 minutes of cooking time, add peas to the pasta water.  Drain pasta and peas and cool under running water.

Add rosemary, roasted red peppers, ham, black pepper, salt and paprika to a large bowl.  Dump in pasta and peas and stir.  Add the mayo and dijon and stir.  Refrigerate and then eat at your leisure.

Buttermilk Poppy Seed Dressing

I think that some of the best culinary moments are ones in which your tastebuds get a full dose of action – sweet, salty, savory, even bitter.  When all combined, it’s some absolute majesty.  This dressing is no exception – the allure of the tangy buttermilk combined with the sweet and tart cider vinegar is absolutely unbeatable.  And the poppy seeds give the whole mixture lovely color and added pizzaz.

Buttermilk Poppyseed Dressing © Spice or Die

If you aren’t in the habit of making your own salad dressing, you should definitely start.  Your salads will taste fresher and brighter, and it won’t cost you anything.  Most homemade salad dressings include staples that you already have in your pantry.  You’ll be saving yourself pennies, chemicals, and in many cases calories, by doing it yourself.

I use this dressing in place of warm bacon dressing on the classic Spinach Salad – a combination of baby spinach, red onion and hard boiled eggs.  However, it’s also delicious on arugula and other bitter greens that are livened up by a bit of sweetness.  Be creative and tuck this dressing recipe into your rolodex for something new and special.


Recipe for

Spinach Salad with Buttermilk Poppy Seed Dressing

1 tbs. of cider vinegar
1/4 c. of buttermilk
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1/4 c. of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. of poppy seeds

Combine all of the ingredients in a jar or plastic tupperware with a tight lid.  Shake and pour over salad of your choice.  Serve.

Chicken Paillard with Arugula

Poundin’ It Out

This recipe is a playful take on the humdrum grilled chicken salad.  Rather than constructing the plate as a salad topped with pannéed chicken breast, arugula and sun-ripe tomatoes are piled atop the protein.  The result is lovely and delicious, and the whole flip it around, “Alice in Wonderland” appeal is an approach that we should all take on a wider scale.  God forbid we ever get boring or bored or both.

Chicken Paillard with Arugula © Spice or Die

The dressing for the arugula is basically an Italian pico de gallo salsa – you macerate the tomatoes with garlic, olive oil and vinegar to form a fresh, bright sauce.  If you feel like taking this recipe even further, you can tuck slices of buffalo mozzarella between the chicken breasts for a lovely chicken caprese salad.  It’s the kind of dinner that will make you rue the day you settled for a boring salad. Continue reading Chicken Paillard with Arugula

Greek Pasta Salad

You Feta Believe It!

I’ve always been iffy about potlucks – while you get a lot of really excellent homemade treats from fellow cheffies, you always run the risk of tasting something god awful (or more likely, something that’s passable that you know that you could make better).  As such, I’m always juiced for recipes that are killers at parties – I won’t be subjecting others to questionable dishes, and if all is bad, I can just make a meal out of a little more of what I’ve brought.  It’s also a good trick for those with dietary restrictions – if you can’t trust others to feed you properly, bring food that will fit the bill.

Greek Pasta Salad © Spice or Die

I like this pasta salad because it’s made from simple ingredients that most people love, and the flavors are bright and tasty.  Nothing strange here – just crisp veggies and curly pasta sopping up lemony vinaigrette.  The whole mess gets an added treat from crumbles of feta and salty olives.  It’s so friggin’ simple, you’ll want to have some on hand in the fridge for an easy side dish on days when it’s too hot to turn on the oven. Continue reading Greek Pasta Salad

Mixed Greens with Clementines and Pecans

Oh My Darlin’, Oh My Darlin’

I love this salad because it screams Springtime even though it’s made with ingredients that are delicious in the winter.  When you are feeling that your menus are lugubrious with heavy stews and dull, overcooked madness, you should give this a try.  From the crunch of pecans, tartness of juicy clementines, and a light rice wine vinegar dressing to wake it all up, you will swear that winter is long gone and warmer days are on the way.

Mixed Greens with Clementines and Pecans © Spice or Die

Use the greens that look the freshest at the market when you go shopping – I like frisee and arugula together, because the bitterness is well-contrasted with the sweet bits of clementine.  You can, though, use anything that you see that should be on your plate – mesclun, red leaf, radicchio and butter lettuce all work as well.

Mixed Greens with Clementines and Pecans

6 c. of arugula, loosely packed
2 c. of frisee, loosely packed
2 clementines, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/3 c. of chopped pecans
1/3 c. of crumbled ricotta salata

4 tbs. of olive oil
2 tbs. of rice wine vinegar
1 tbs. of dried tarragon
1/4 tsp. of salt
1/4 tsp. of black pepper
1 tbs. of shallots, finely chopped

Add greens, clementines, pecans and ricotta salata to a bowl.  In a jar (or a plastic chinese soup container, like I use), shake together the oil, vinegar, tarragon, salt, pepper and shallots.  Pour the dressing on the sides of the salad bowl (so as to not oversaturate the greens) and toss.  Serve salad to people longing for a little sunshine.

Sesame Mandarin Salad

Open Sesame!

This salad is inspired by the delicious concoction that my buddy Maureen used to whip up for all of us working at my old job back in the day.  Perfectly tangy, crunchy, and sweet – it was probably the most requested item at our potlucks and parties.  Remind me to beg her for her recipe sometime.

Right around the time I left for NYC, my aunt gave me a copy of the Junior League of Yakima Cookbook, and lo and behold, they had a version of Maureen’s salad.  Their version had a few unusual additions, to include parsley, candied almonds and tabasco.  They also used a lettuce blend as opposed to the traditional iceberg.

Fast forward a bit, and out of sheer necessity and chronic cravings for interesting salad options, I came up with the following “hacked” version of the two recipes.  I ditched the candied almonds, added some splenda, and used a mix of extra crisp lettuces – frisee became the ace in the hole, adding both crunch and texture.  Topping off the whole shebang is a lovely toss of black and white sesame seeds.  The bright mix manages to make me grin just at the sight of it.  A nourishing enough meal on its own, this salad is also a great accompaniment to slices of Crispy Ginger Chicken.

Sesame Mandarin Salad

6 c. of mixed greens (iceberg, romaine, frisee, green leaf, red leaf)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 c. of celery, diced
1 15oz. can of mandarin orange segments, drained
1/3 c. of sliced almonds

1/4 c. of vegetable oil
4 tbs. of rice wine vinegar
2 packets of splenda (or 4 tsp. of sugar)
1/2 tsp. of salt
1/8 tsp. of white pepper
1 tsp of white sesame seeds
1 tsp of black sesame seeds

In a large salad bowl, toss the greens, scallions, celery, almonds and oranges.  Set aside.  Mix together in a small bowl the olive oil, rice wine vinegar, splenda, salt and white pepper.  Pour the dressing on the sides of the salad bowl (a Thomas Keller trick to perfectly saturate each green with an even amount of dressing) and toss.  Top the salad with the sesame seeds.  Serve to deserving lovelies.

Thai Chopped Salad with Crisp Noodles and Herbs

Chopper Style

There’s a time and a place for Applebee’s, and that’s when your dead.  Kidding, but seriously, the salads at all these chain restaurants (I’m talking to you too, Chilis and TGIFridays) are a waste of money.  I’m sure that the dressings are prepackaged with all kinds of preservatives, and heaven knows when the produce last left the garden.  It’s a waste of cash as well.  The only thing that they’re doing right is illustrating the point that salads don’t have to be boring.

This particular recipe reminds me of all of my favorite things about a salad – exceedingly crisp, ultra light, and super refreshing.  Matchsticks of carrot, daikon and red bell pepper give an addictive crunch, and the crisp noodles help to soak up the yummy peanut lime dressing.  Cilantro and mint add spice and sweetness, and the dressing gets a kick from a bit of chili and garlic.  It’s all around goodness. Continue reading Thai Chopped Salad with Crisp Noodles and Herbs

String Bean & Heirloom Tomato Salad

Summer, Summer, Summer Time! Oooooooh, Summertime!

Ok, maybe not summer yet, but I do like it when I can get produce to do my bidding at any given season and remind me of the joys of a fruitful harvest from the garden.  This salad, based on one that I fell in love with at the restaurant The Smith, is a bright assortment of crisp and tart, sweet and salty flavors.  It’ll make you want to sit in a hammock and sway on a warm summer night.

The salad calls for heirloom cherry tomatoes, but these little gems can be hard to come by out of season.  As such, get the freshest ripest tomatoes you can find, regardless of size or color.  In the middle of the summer, stores and markets offer what they sometimes call “ugly” tomatoes – these are actually heirlooms that are truly the tastiest tomatoes you can buy.  Bumpy and abnormally shaped on the outside, they are bursting with juicy sweetness, reminding you of the joys of homegrown produce.  My favorites are an heirloom variety that I used to grow back in the day called “Black Krim’s” – they were a sickly dark green on the outside and a gorgeous purple on the inside.  I only gave them to people I liked, even when I had bumper crops of tomatoes hanging from the burdened vines. Continue reading String Bean & Heirloom Tomato Salad