When it is raining in Florida on a summer afternoon, the humidity is high and it is just steamy. Grilling isn’t an option and often it is just a bit to hot to fire up the gas stove and, well, I often find myself craving a salad.
Salads in the summer just hit the spot, cool and crisp lettuce topped with just about anything you have in the fridge or the pantry. Last night we enjoyed a smokey grilled pork chop salad with raisins, freshly grated nutty goat Gouda and sharp cheddar, sunflower seeds and peanuts. I dressed it with a BBQ ranch dressing (with just a bit of a kick) and garlic croutons.
The result? A fast and easy dinner that was perfect for a steamy, rainy night.
I love to play with the toppings, changing it up a bit and using ingredients that complement each other. I had grilled pork tenderloin leftover and I used that as my inspiration for a smokey, nutty chop salad with a BBQ flare.
My basic formula for quick weeknight chop salad is:
2 Cheeses +
Some Nuts or Seeds +
Something Sweet +
A Complementary Dressing +
Something with a Salty Crunch +
Chopped Romaine Lettuce =
YUMMY Chopped Salad for Dinner Tonight!!
For the protein, use chopped leftover chicken, ham, pork, roast beef, meatloaf or pick up some in the deli meat section of your supermarket. Rotisserie chicken is a great time saver when you don’t have any leftovers to use up. Choose 1 to 2 types to use in your salad and dice them into small to medium size cubes.
Already shredded cheese in your fridge? Use it. Chunks of cheese left over from the cheese tray, grate them. Go simple or get creative as I did and pair nutty and tangy cheese with the smokey grilled meat.
For the nuts, you can’t really go wrong here. I usually have peanuts, sunflower seed, pecans and walnuts on hand but if you don’t, use what you have.
The sweet can be fresh, canned or dried. I like to use raisins or cranberries plus often
something fresh. In this case, I just kept it simple and used raisins.
You can also add veggies like diced cucumber, shredded carrots, diced tomatoes or peppers for additional texture and flavor.
For the dressing I wanted to bring out the smokey flavor of the pork by adding BBQ sauce to my standard ranch dressing. The dressing mix was 4 parts ranch salad dressing plus 2 parts of your favorite BBQ sauce. I added a kick with Wildtree Wicked Good Slow Cooker Sauce about 1-2 teaspoons but you could also substitute chili powder and cayenne to taste.
I like to make my own ranch dressing generally from scratch with fresh herbs (check out my cookbook on Amazon.com for several recipes for fresh dressings) or I using yogurt and Wildtree’s ranch dressing mix and a little milk. However, you can use your favorite ranch dressing if you don’t have the ingredients on hand.
My last component is a salty crunch. Croutons, fried wontons, chow main noodles, tortilla chips or strips all are great options to put that salty crunch exclamation point on top.
Now you can get creative with the salad base too and add in some chopped cabbage or baby bok choy but let’s keep is simple tonight. Romaine lettuce works great and, of course, ice berg can stand in in a pinch.
I hope this inspires you to consider making a chop salad for dinner tonight or another night!