Chris Cooks

A Really Good Salad With Really Good Stuff On It

May 13, 2013  —  Written by Chris 

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For Mother’s Day dinner, Jules requested “a good salad in a big bowl.” I like salad as much as the next guy (as long as that next guy doesn’t really like salad), but salad just sounds so boring. So I walked up and down the produce section of our local grocery store and found a few ingredients I thought might make a more exciting salad. Turns out, I was totally RIGHT!!! Lots to go over, so enough prose. Let’s do this.

Candied Kumquats
If you’ve never eaten kumquats, they’re basically tiny oranges with a bit more tartness. The peels are super thin and quite sweet, so there’s no need to peel them. Candying the kumquats balances out some of that tartness. Here’s what you do:

2/3 cup water
2/3 loosely packed cup brown sugar
4 oz kumquats, sliced, seeds removed (kumquats are notorious for having large seeds)

mix sugar and water in a pan, bring to boil, add the kumquats, cook until fruit turns translucent
remove kumquats from liquid (leave liquid in pan), place on wax paper to cool. they won’t get crunchy. that’s ok

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing
Next up? Raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Don’t let it intimidate you – it’s really easy. Here’s what you need:

Liquid from cooking the kumquats + 1/2 cup water
4 oz fresh raspberries (can use frozen, but won’t be as good)

after you’ve removed the kumquats from the pan, add water and raspberries and simmer until raspberries fall apart
pour raspberries into a fine mesh sieve, force it through sieve with back of spoon. be sure to scrape off the underside of the strainer – that’s where the good stuff is
this is all you get out of it. not very much, but totally worth the effort
add 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. whisk until it’s all combined

Crunchy Granola Topping
I’m a crouton man. I love croutons on my salad. Of course, we’re eating gluten free and I’ve never seen a satisfactory gluten-free crouton, so I was looking for something else to add some crunch. I love eating granola with fruit, and since I was adding some fruity elements to the salad, I thought I’d roll with it. I used gluten-free rolled oats, but you can use whatever kind you have (most rolled oats are not gluten-free, so be sure to double check). Here’s what you need:

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup honey (I used orange blossom honey that my lovely sister gave me as a gift – it was perfect for this, but you can use any honey you want)

I’m pretty hands on with my granola. I like to toast it in a non-stick pan, on the stove top. Doing it this way takes a bit of attention, though, because it needs to be tossed every couple of minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn and it all toasts evenly. You can also make this granola in the oven by mixing the ingredients and baking for 30 minutes or so at 300 degrees. Please note, this granola was made specifically for this salad. It’s not meant to be the ultimate, all-purpose granola for whatever. But I will say, it’s quite tasty to just snack on, and super simple to make. Check it.

put your oats and almonds in a non-stick pan on medium-low heat and toast for 20-ish minutes, tossing every couple of minutes to keep it from burning
add honey and toss it around until all the granola is coated evenly. cook for 3-4 minutes
pour it on some wax paper and let it cool. it will get crunchy, worry not

That’s the 3rd part of the prep. The 4th is chicken. Quick version: 2 chicken breasts (1 for each person), rinsed, dried, coated with light olive oil (not extra virgin), sprinkled with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder, and dried basil. Cooked on the grill or in a grill pan. If you can’t find ancho, then just skip the chili powder.

Whew. Ok, so we just went over how to make 3 different things (4 if you count the chicken, which I don’t since it’s not anything special). That was a bit like drinking from a firehose, which I apologize for. But here’s what you end up with:

Everything Else
1/3 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
7 leaves red leaf lettuce, chopped
1 cup savoy cabbage, chopped
7-8 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
1 heirloom tomato, small dice
1/3 red bell pepper, really small dice
good-quality feta cheese, cubed

I learned from California Pizza Kitchen that the trick to a salad that is enjoyable to eat (not just tasty) is to chop the lettuce up really good. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon. Seriously, this is an important step. Otherwise you end up with one of those salads that’s perpetually leaving traces of dressing in the corners of peoples’ mouths because the leaves are too big. So… chop it up. You’ll love it, I promise.

Assemble like so – mix the lettuces, cabbage, basil, tomato, and bell pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to your serving bowls. Top with dressing, then chicken, then granola, then kumquats, then a little more dressing, and finish it with the feta. Bang, awesome salad.

I have to say, I really hope that you try this salad. Granted, there are a lot of steps. But it’s seriously not difficult, and ends with possibly the best salad I’ve ever had. It’s totally summer appropriate and you won’t regret taking the time. One last pic.

PS – Feel free to make it your own, too. If you try something different and it turns out great, let me know! I’m always looking for more ideas. :)

What do you think?

  1. Julie says:

    Dang, Chris! This looks amazing! Now off to find kumquats!

  2. Jessica says:

    I’m so freaking impressed by the two of you. I guess I won’t be splurging on a cooks illustrated magazine subscription now that we’ve finally paid down our student loans. This is even better!

    Both the blogs are awesome.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This looks soo good!

  4. Nicolle says:

    Looks delicious! Can’t wait to try :)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Looks delish!

  6. Val says:

    I’m really loving these foodie posts! I know Julia is always talking about what a good cook her husband is, but I have to admit that I am still totally suprised/impressed. The “hot pan + cold oil = awesome potatoes” thing might have changed my life this weekend…just saying…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never known what to do with kumquats, thanks for the inspiration! I’m really enjoying these posts, what a great addition to the blog!

  8. Melissa says:

    I LOVE these posts… I feel like every post I learn something new about cooking and new techniques. You present it in an approachable way!

  9. This looks so good and I’m all about trying to candy up some kumquats! I’m going to have to substitute the chicken for a vegetarian ‘chick’n’ but that is not a problem! Thanks for this!

  10. Thats looks amazing.

  11. Clementine says:

    I just planted a bunch of lettuce this morning, thinking, “Why am I planting lettuce when salads are so boring?” Well now I have the perfect recipe to dream about while I wait for my garden to grow. This looks incredible. Thanks, Chris!

  12. Emily says:

    This is blowing my mind!! I cant wait to make it :)

  13. yum!! I’ve never cooked with kumquats but I would love to try it out. I have to admit though, I’ve never been a fan of raspberry dressing but I bet a citrus based dressing would also work brilliantly! Fun ideas!

    • Totally! The kumquats and citrus dressing may be a bit much, but you could try replacing the kumquats with dried cranberries or maybe even sunflower seeds. Whatever you do with it, be sure to come back and share it with us!

  14. Whitney says:

    Oh my word, this looks AMAZING! Definitely trying this as soon as I can. My husband is a meat eater to the max, so I may have to have a girls night and this salad. Beets are so delicious in salads, so I may add some of them as well!

    • I think beets would be a great addition to the salad. Either canned, or if you can’t find kumquats, you could try candying the beets instead. That’s what I love about food. Changing one ingredient can change an entire dish!

  15. Ashley says:

    Chris, you said to put light olive oil (not extra virgin) on the chicken. Someday, you’re going to have to explain the difference. I know I could google it, but I seriously think I’d get more out of it if you explain the difference and how to use them.

    ps. I LOVE this addition to this blog. I know some people like it (and some people don’t), but adding Chris’s recipes really makes it feel like I’ve been invited into your home. Jules is teaching me how to decorate my home and Chris is teaching me how to entertain my friends and family. Perfect way to share your individual passions.

    • Thanks Ashley! Maybe I’ll do an olive oil post for Wednesday. I know with a lot of people you always hear “never use anything but extra virgin,” but I just don’t agree. They each have their uses, just like any other ingredient. I’ve been wanting to write about that specifically, so thanks for the motivation!

  16. ummmm…. YUM! Love this. thanks Chris!

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