The Signature Salad

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Simple, fresh ingredients and a light vinaigrette combine to create a salad light enough to serve as a starter course yet so diverse and robust that it can hold its own as a main entree. Mixed baby greens serve as a bed for all of the fantastic additions that will jump onto every forkful – red grapes, fresh pears, dried cranberries, pistachio nuts, and gorgonzola cheese. The pears and grapes are crisp and bright, the dried cranberries soft and tart, the pistachios are salty and add crunch, while the cheese is creamy and tangy. The shallots in the vinaigrette add a bite to the salad and the combination of these incredible flavors and textures result in an amazing salad, one that is better than perhaps any I have ever made at home. Easy enough for a quick weeknight meal, yet impressive enough to serve to guests for lunch, or as a starter course for any holiday celebration or dinner party. It takes what is typically a ho-hum side salad to the next level and will make your meal memorable.

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Thanks go out to my Chief Culinary Consultant for introducing me to this fabulous salad. I had heard about this salad for quite some time, as he has talked about ordering it for lunch at Cosi many times. On Saturday we had it as a starter course to a filet and baked potato dinner, and then ate it again on Sunday before having pork chops. I apparently couldn’t get enough because I made it for dinner on Monday, in entree-sized portions. Everyone who ate this couldn’t stop raving about it and I think everyone would have been happy to polish off a second bowl.

As you can see in the recipe below, I have made a couple of suggestions regarding substitutions. While this recipe includes gorgonzola cheese, I realize that a good many people do not enjoy cheeses in the blue family; a great substitution for the gorgonzola would be feta cheese, as it delivers that same tangy bite. The second ingredient that I list a substitution for is the sherry vinegar. I looked in two large grocery stores for sherry vinegar and couldn’t find it in either, so I have to assume that it’s not an ingredient that is readily available. Since sherry is a type of wine, I decided to substitute red wine vinegar in this recipe, and had great results. You could also use white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar if you have either of those in your pantry.

Hungry for more light summer salads? Check out these recipes:
Cobb Salad
Panzanella Salad

1 year ago: Fettuccine Alfredo with Homemade Pasta
2 years ago: Perfect Chocolate Cake

The Signature Salad

Yield: Makes 4 main course servings, or 8 side dish servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

8 ounces mixed greens
2 cups red grapes, sliced in half
2 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
2/3 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
½ cup shelled pistachios
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese

Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette
1 medium shallot, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup sherry vinegar (if you can't find sherry vinegar, substitute red wine vinegar)
½ cup olive oil

Directions:

To prepare the salad, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Combine all dressing ingredients through the vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly pour olive oil into the vinegar mixture in a steady stream. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

Serve immediately.

(Inspired by the Cosi Signature Salad, by way of my Chief Culinary Consultant)