Culinary historians have mused over the origins of chef’s salad, some tracing the dinner salad back to diet-conscious California, others to the kitchen of New York City’s Ritz-Carleton. But as noted in a 1999 issue of Gourmet, “Nobody has ever stepped forward to claim the title of the chef in 'chef's salad.'” No great surprise here, for truly, what self-respecting chef would put their name to the slapdash mélange of deli meat, cheese and chopped salad? Thus the sad irony of a dish, which was named for a chef but that no chef will own.
Perhaps it’s the vagueness of chef’s salad that makes it such a wildcard. According to recipes for the stuff, it’s basically a salad bar in a bowl. But with some direction, the formula of a meat and cheese salad can add up to a light, but satisfying, no-cook summer meal.
One great thing about a chef’s salad is that you don’t need to be a chef, or even have a recipe, to make it. Just chop and toss!
- Cubed green pear (like D’Anjou or Comice) + cubed Cotswold cheese + torn prosciutto + thinly sliced endive + wild arugula + honey Dijon dressing [mayo, Dijon mustard, honey and lemon juice]
- Cubed Swiss cheese + chopped pastrami + shredded red cabbage + shredded carrots + green leaf lettuce + Russian dressing [ketchup, mayo, horseradish]
- Halved red grapes + shaved ricotta salata + cubed, thick-cut smoked turkey + Marcona almonds + red romaine + curry vinaigrette [curry powder, cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper]
- Crumbled blue cheese + shredded chicken + chopped celery + Boston lettuce + spicy ranch dressing [store-bought ranch, hot sauce]
- Cubed watermelon + crumbled feta + cubed cured ham + chopped mint + watercress + balsamic vinaigrette [balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper]
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