With the blistering heat of summer days, eating light becomes a necessity… and one-stop salads are the answer! Today’s chopped salad is a perfect example of the kind of meal I love to serve during the summer months – flavor-packed, refreshing and easy to digest, yet hearty enough to leave you entirely satisfied.
Here romaine leaves are tossed with red bell pepper, sweet corn, avocados and a creamy cilantro-lime vinaigrette. Then the salad is topped with crispy pan-fried chickpeas – a nutritious and most delicious alternative to the traditional bread croutons.
As a first course, this recipe serves four generous portions. But if you’re like me and want to make a meal of it, then the recipe serves two.
Here’s to hot summer days… and one-stop salads!
Food & wine pairing: Northeast Italy, Ribolla Gialla with summer chopped salad
The region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in Northeast Italy, is famous for its unusual whites – especially Ribolla Gialla. This ancient grape turns out wines that are savory, opulent and richly layered – a perfect match to this summer chopped salad. Alternatively, pour a Sauvignon Blanc from a warmer region, like California. These wines have a rich mouthfeel and tropical notes that pair wonderfully with the cilantro-lime vinaigrette.
Summer chopped salad with cilantro-lime vinaigrette and crispy chickpea “croutons”
serves 4 as a first course or 2 as a main course
active time: 40 min
For the vinaigrette
- 1 oz (28 g) cilantro leaves (1 cup tightly packed)
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts or blanched almonds
- 1 large garlic clove – skinned
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the chickpea “croutons”
- 3 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas – drained
- olive oil for pan-frying
- sea salt to taste
For the salad
- 8 oz (225 g) romaine lettuce leaves (1/2 large head of lettuce)
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 large ears sweet corn
- 1 ripe (but still firm) avocado
- Step 1: To make the vinaigrette – Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until creamy, about 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl once. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
- Step 2: To make the chickpea “croutons” – Place the cornmeal, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl. Stir until well blended. Add the chickpeas and stir until well coated. Transfer to a medium-meshed sieve and shake until the excess cornmeal has been sifted. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to reach 1/4″ up the sides of the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the chickpeas. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the chickpeas are a deep golden color, stirring them a couple of times so they cook evenly. Scoop the chickpeas out with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Sprinkle with the salt and set aside.
- Cook’s note: The chickpeas can be made up to 30 minutes ahead of time. They will lose their crispness if allowed to stand for a longer period.
- Step 3: Cut the romaine leaves crosswise in 1/2″ strips, then lengthwise in 1/2″ pieces. Place in a large bowl. Quarter the red pepper, remove the seeds and cut in 1/4″ cubes. Shuck the corn and slice the kernels off the cob. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and peel each half. Then cut in 1/4″ pieces. Add the pepper, corn and avocado pieces to the lettuce. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss until well coated. Transfer to a serving platter, top with the chickpea “croutons” and serve immediately.