Don't let the garlic or the bread in the title scare you. Because this salad will have you at the first crunchy bite. And it helps you to get dinner (or lunch) on the table—FAST.
You've made a commitment to eat more salad. And you made a promise to yourself to have it for dinner. But after opening a bag of lettuce, dumping it into a bowl and pouring on some bottled salad dressing, you still want a BIG. FAT. CHEESEBURGER. I'm the exact same way. After dinner, I really enjoy the feeling of "damn! that was good." And a salad doesn't always do it...unless it's chock full of flavors and textures. And it's even better if it checks some nutritional boxes. And doesn't take hours to shop for or make. And it's husband approved. You get it.
This Italian Crunch Chopped Salad checks all the boxes. My husband, who can be a tad choosy..ahem..loved it. I don't know about you, but I do like making the people in my life happy when I've cooked. Heck, it's the anthem for this site. However, I'm the first to admit that it doesn't always happen because we all have different palates and preferences. Happily, my kids lean towards mine.
Ok..on to the salad. The salad I had in my head begins on top of big piece of bread. I hope I don't lose you here...especially if you're not eating bread or gluten these days. Your favorite gluten-free bread will be perfect especially because we are going to get it all crunchy and toasty in the oven. I used a large Italian bread because I wanted a big foundation for the salad and it adds extra drama (which let's be honest, is spicy especially on TV or when you aren't involved). I also knew I wanted Italian flavors which meant prosciutto, olive oil, garlic and parmesan. Oh- and some gorgonzola because if you know me you know I'm all about the blue cheese. And all things Italian.
For the prosciutto, I wanted it to be crispy like a bacon but I didn't want the mess or extra calories from frying it so I popped it into the oven for about 8 minutes on a parchment lined cookie sheet and I was good to go. Easy. Now onto the bread...
The trick with the bread is to kiss it with some olive oil on one side and broil it in the oven for just about a minute until it's golden brown. You have to keep an eye on it because it goes quick. And then you could end up with burnt toast which, I'll be honest, I would eat but no one in my family would.
After mixing up a bread spread of some parmesan cheese, garlic, olive oil and black pepper, you spread that on the other side of the bread and pop it back under the broiler. However, this time you lower the broiler to "low". Side note: if your broiler gives you temperature options other than "high" or "low," I set mine to 475º. Keep an eye again as the bread toasts up to how you like it. Mine took about 2-2 ½ minutes to look like the photo.
Meanwhile, get to work on your dressing. Start with the vinegar, spices and seasonings first and when it's time to add the oil, do it in a slow steady stream while whisking vigorously. If you aren't a vigorous whisker just yet, here's a little cheat: take the whisk and hold the handle between the palms of your hands with the whisk end in the dressing. Swish your hands back and forth- kind of like you are warming them up when you're cold- until the dressing is incorporated. Works every time.
PSA: I am a big believer in making your own salad dressings. Chances are, you already have most of the ingredients on hand to make your own and it's easy, healthier, and gratifying. The more you do it, the more confident you'll become and soon it'll be second nature. Check out my Salad Dressing Series in my "How To's" for the basic components of a great dressing and you'll be making your favorites in no time. And saving some money!
Time to assemble the salad. Stack your washed lettuce leaves on top of each other and thinly slice them into long strands. Prepare your other ingredients like the grape tomatoes, red onions and pine nuts. Take your gorgeous piece of garlic bread and lay it on your plate. Lay it across the plate at a jaunty little angle if it's long and skinny. Next, place one or two pieces of prosciutto depending on the size of your bread. Now take your shredded lettuce layer it on your bread and accessorize with the tomatoes, red onion and gorgonzola. Drizzle some of your homemade dressing on top and then scatter on some pine nuts. And a little squeeze of lemon on top brings the perfect touch of acidity to balance the whole thing out.
Oh-my mouth is watering as I am writing this... the combo of the dressing with the crisp garlic bread, the cold lettuce and the gorgonzola is so on point. And the extra saltiness from the prosciutto? Bella!
Garlic Toast Chopped Salad
- 8 slices prosciutto
- 4 slices Italian bread, I used Turano Pane Turano Authentic Italian Bread
- red bibb lettuce or Boston lettuce, leaves separated and washed
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup gorgonzola, crumbled
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, I buy these already toasted at Trader Joe's
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ¼ cup chopped red onion
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400º. Place prosciutto on parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crisp watching it at the 8 min mark. Remove from oven and let cool on sheet until ready to use.
- Meanwhile, blend salad dressing ingredients except the olive oil. Mix them up in a jelly jar or glass measuring cup and stream in olive oil while whisking vigorously. Also can hold the handle of a whisk between the palms of your hands and vigorously twisting it back and forth.
- Stack the washed and dried lettuce leaves and thinly slice down the stacks to create shreds. Wash and dry the tomatoes and cut in half. Finely chop the red onion. Set aside.
- Heat the broiler to high.
- Mix the bread spread ingredients together and set aside briefly.
- Lightly drizzle or brush olive oil on one side of bread and broil that side only for 1 min till golden. Flip over and spread bread spread evenly on the other side. Broil again, but this time at 475 degrees if your broiler has that option. Otherwise use the low or high broil setting and keep an eye on it!
- When the cheese is golden on top and the edges are nice and toasted, remove the bread from the oven and cool until ready to assemble the salad. The bread can be made about 30 minutes before eating if needed and is great at room temperature.
To Assemble the Salad
- Layer the salad as follows:Place a piece of bread across the plate. Top with the 1-2 slices of prosciutto. Sprinkle the shredded lettuce on top and accent with the tomatoes, cheese and red onions. Drizzle dressing over top at this point. Top with pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon
- The dressing can be made ahead for up to 1 week
- You can prepare both the prosciutto and the garlic toast the bread earlier in the day, cool completely, and store in separate ziplocs and reheat right before assembling the salad.