The name of the salad is Summer “Fiesta” Chopped Salad, and truth be told, I had intended to make it for a Cinco de Mayo thing, along with some pretty marvelous tequila-based cocktails, but previous commitments intervened and it got brushed by the wayside. I’m sorry, salad, that is just the way things go sometimes.
I finally got around to making it a few days later and remembered how easy and forgiving and utterly delicious it is. The dressing is lovely and bright with lime and cilantro, and the napa cabbage keeps it crunchy should you have any leftovers. The forgiving part? Beyond the base of the napa cabbage and red leaf lettuce, you can add or substitute ingredients really easily. Jicama can stand in for radish, red onion works well, and you can up the heat by adding in extra jalapeno peppers (either to the salad or the dressing). If you don’t have avocado oil, corn or vegetable oil are great substitutes, too.
You can make this salad the night before and toss with the dressing an hour or so prior to serving, with the exception of the cheese, avocado and tortilla chips – add those three at the last minute possible.
Voila, instant fiesta!
Summer Fiesta Chopped Salad
1 medium to large head napa cabbage, chopped
1 head red leaf lettuce, chopped
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast*
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thinly
1 bunch radishes, sliced thinly
1/2 cup torn cilantro leaves
1-2 large Hass avocados, roughly chopped
1/2 cup tortilla chips, crumbled
1/2 cup queso fresco, crumbled
1/2 cup pepper jack cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 1/2 -2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (caliente version!)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup avocado oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the salad: Toss first eight ingredients together in a large bowl. Up to an hour before serving, add 1/2 of the dressing. Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Just prior to serving, add the last four ingredients, tossing gently. Top with freshly ground pepper to taste, passing the extra dressing on the side.
For the dressing: In a medium container with lid, combine first four ingredients. Stir to mix. Add the lime juice and avocado oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Make sure the lid is on firmly (trust me, this part is important) and shake vigorously until well incorporated. Can be made up to 24 hours in advance, just give it a good shake before tossing with the salad. Should you have leftover dressing, it keeps for up to a week in a sealed container in the fridge.
* For the shredded chicken: Rinse two large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and place, breast side down, in a medium saucepan. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that comes to the surface. Cover and reduce heat to ensure a steady simmer. Cook until the meat is falling off the bone when pierced with a fork (about and hour and a half, depending on the size of the chicken breasts) adding water as necessary. Remove chicken from broth with tongs and let cool on a plate, then shred.
Note: The resulting chicken broth is terrific for use in other dishes and freezes well. Strain it into a freezer-safe container and you’ll always have tasty chicken broth on hand to use as a base for soup, rice or whatever. Keeps for up to 3 months frozen.