I can’t quite remember when Italian chopped salad became synonymous with Christmastime in our home, but as soon as I see the radicchio display at my local market in December, my mind goes right to this Nancy Silverton favourite.
It’s a pre-Noel staple, balancing out the sugar high of my annual cookie swaps, and sticking around long after Santa’s visit to help us use up leftover meats and cheese from the deli drawer. The Italian chopped salad is a holiday lunch for all when no one wants to cook and a pot-luck mainstay for casual gatherings with friends.
This famous chopped salad has taken many iterations, depending on pantry and fridge staples, and to me, that’s ideal for any salad making: use what you have. I hope you love my holiday edition; make it your own.
The Best Italian Chopped Salad – and my variations
The a classic version of this Italian chopped salad recipe can be found in The Mozza Cookbook, a 2011 tome from Nancy’s LA Italian restaurant. What a testament to a solid cookbook recipe; a staple after all these years.
My version dresses it it up a bit for the holidays, with Italian parsley and blush pink Radicchio Rosa. I’ll tip in small, cocktail-size bocconini cheese if I have it on hand, as double the cheese is always a good thing.
All the salami and cheese makes it a rather rich salad, so I like to bring in more acidity with canned artichoke hearts. They marry so well with all of the other Mediterranean ingredients. And I always serve briny olives on the side.
Classic Ingredients for an Italian Chopped Salad
Let’s break them down:
- Radicchio – my farmer’s market inspiration; a head of locally grown radicchio always makes it into my basket. It’s pretty in pink – Radiccio Rosa – and my grower tells me it is the cold weather that turns the tender interior leafs a soft blush.
- Iceberg or Romaine Lettuce – Use what you have! I do adore the hearts of Romaine for their sturdiness. They hold up well to the other bold ingredients.
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Red Onion – soak slices briefly in cold water to soften their pungency
- Chickpeas – see note about marinating chickpeas in advance
- Genoa Salami
- Provolone Cheese – or bocconcini
- Pepperoncini – spicy deli-style pickled peppers
- Dried Oregano – not stale!
- Bonus Ingredients; it IS Christmas after all. I adore canned artichoke hearts, hearts of palm and even a handful of briny olives. If I’m making this a meal, I may tip a can of rinsed kidney beans in as well. It’s a party! Avocado makes a great addition, as do thinly sliced bell peppers.
Tips for the best Italian Chopped Salad
- Make the Garlic Oregano Vinaigrette in advance, if possible. Even letting it sit an hour before serving will give the pungent oregano time to infuse the olive oil. The garlic also mellow somewhat and the whole dressing is improved.
- Use the best dried oregano you have. Toss out any oregano that has been around for a year or longer and replace with a batch from the Mediterranean. I love the wild oregano harvested from Chios, Greece that I get from Spice Trekkers.
- Marinate the chickpeas if you have time. Just spoon a few tablespoons of that pre-made vinaigrette over the chickpeas and let them marinate in the citrusy herb oil for 30 minutes or longer.
- Seeds. Although not traditional to a chop salad, I sometimes crave big crunch in my salad. Sunflower seeds do the trick, as do pepitas (pumpkin seeds).
- Follow your favourite flavours. Use this recipe as a base to build the chopped salad that you love best. Swap in bocconcini for provolone or punch it up with olives or hearts of palm. Make it an accessible salad you crave.
It’s uncharacteristic of me to post a recipe with out of season ingredients (cherry tomatoes) but everything else works so well for a giant (red, green and white) Christmas salad! I hope you’ll try it for yourself and add it to the list of fantastic holiday salads.
Garlic Oregano Vinaigrette
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano Mediterranean, if possible
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 head iceberg lettuce or Romaine lettuce
- 1 head radicchio pink or red
- 1/4 red onion sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup canned artichoke hearts drained
- 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
- 4 oz provolone cheese
- 4 oz Genoa salami
- 2-3 pickled pepperoncini
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano to garnish
Make the Vinaigrette
In a small bowl with the back of a wooden spoon, or mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and salt together to make a paste. Using a fork, whisk in the red wine vinegar and lemon juice.
Season the vinaigrette with oregano and salt. Drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Transfer to a jar, cover and leave at room temperature while you prep the salad. Vinaigrette can be made up to one week in advance and stored in the fridge.
Make the Salad
Discard the outer leaves of the iceberg or romaine lettuce and radicchio. Cut in half and remove the core or each. Roughly chop into 12/ inch strips, or smaller if that is your preference. Add greens to a large salad bowl.
Cut the tomatoes and artichoke hearts into quarters. Dice the provolone and cut the salami into ribbons. Thinly slice the pepperoncini, if using.
Pile all of the ingredients onto the salad greens: red onion, chickpeas, tomatoes, artichokes, cheese, salami and pepperoncini peppers. Drizzle on about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette and toss everything to coat.
Taste the salad and add more vinaigrette if desired. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Toss in the fresh parsley and sprinkle on the dried oregano. Toss the salad one more time and serve immediately.
- diced bell pepper
- cubed avocado
- sliced roast baby beets
- chopped hearts of palm
- black or green olives
If you love huge winter salads, allow me to reintroduce my other staple, featuring fruits and nuts, seeds and greens. It’s a completely different flavour profile to the LA inspired chopped salad, but just as cravable:
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!
#Italian #Chopped #Salad #Recipe