Tuesday, July 15, 2014

salad assignment? Graham's Party Salad

Greg's new VP of Asia gig brings "the band back together" as he is working for Charlie for the third time (for the third company) in the past 16 years.  This happy alliance took us to Detroit (well, Rochester), Cleveland (Hudson) and Kansas City (never actually moved there, but one very good husband commuted there for 7 years, who knew it would go that long?).  And now we're off to Australia as soon as all the stars are aligned and all the logistics fall into place.  Some of our best friends come from what I think of as "the team", the guys that have worked and moved with Greg some since the TDK days 20 some years ago.  Most of them have also been regulars on Greg's annual fishing trip to the boundary waters of Canada.  So many stories, weddings, race weekends, parties and good times with the team.  One of the team members, Graham, happens to also be a great cook and made this salad one night for a big steak dinner party at his house which appears to be 13 years ago because the recipe is printed from an e-mail sent to me at an e-mail address I don't even remember as mine.  Geez.

This is a salad for a party.  It's big and universally liked.  Graham's original recipe uses mayonnaise and it's a well-established fact that I do not knowingly eat mayonnaise (and my mayo radar is always on) unless I love you a lot and you feed it to me and then I'll try a bite of your salad because I love you and you were unaware of my rules.  Thankfully, Greek yogurt works just as well.  The herbs used to flavor the dressing can be from your pantry shelves or your herb garden in season.  You can use whatever vegetables you like.  Graham sliced his bell peppers in big, pretty rings and I always try to do that too because they look amazing.  Mushrooms are great in this salad but honestly, I forgot that and did not buy any for the salad I made this weekend (because why would you actually review a recipe before you go to the market?).  The original recipe calls for layering your salad vegetables in your serving bowl, topping it with a layer of feta and then spreading the dressing evenly across the top.  The bowl is covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated 4-24 hours and then tossed with the croutons just before serving.  I usually just layer it all up and keep the dressing in a jar or covered bowl but both methods work just fine.  


Graham's Party Salad

Dressing

1 C plain Greek yogurt (fat free or 2%)
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese 
1/4 C red wine vinegar 
1/2 C lemon juice
1/4-1/2 C olive oil (start with 1/4 and add more to get your desired creaminess)
3-5 shakes of hot sauce (I used about 1/2 tsp Cholula)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T tamari (reduced sodium soy sauce)
1/2-1 tsp dried herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary) OR small handfuls of fresh herbs, chopped fine
(I know that's a lot of approximations, but you can't really do it wrong with fresh and with dried just start with 1/2 to 1 tsp of each and all a little more to taste).

Salad
three heads romaine lettuce, core removed, tough outer leaves removed, torn in pieces, washed and spun dry (love little gem if you can find it because those heads have no dark and tough leaves, I get mine at Costco or Meijer)
two bell peppers cored and cut in big rings
two to three tomatoes cut in pieces or sliced OR a box or two of cherry tomatoes, halved
sweet red onion, thinly sliced
one 10-oz. box sliced mushrooms
1 C or more of crumbled feta cheese
one package nice whole grain garlic and herb croutons

Whisk all dressing ingredients to blend and if making ahead, pour dressing into a mason jar or other pourable container and refrigerate to dress the salad before serving.

Layer salad ingredients in a very large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not serving right away.  Toss with dressing, feta and croutons and serve immediately.  

Serves 15-18 easily.  Can be topped with grilled chicken, grilled skirt steak or cooked shrimp for an entree and omnivore version.  If you cut the recipe in half, don't reduce all of the seasonings by half maybe just a bit less of everything you whisk into the yogurt, Parmesan, red wine and olive oil.  

dressing ingredients

before whisking

creamy and ready to chill or dress

pepper rings, onion slices, tomato pieces and romaine (it's hiding under there)

ready to cover and chill without dressing


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