Love-Where-You-Are Chopped Salad

I am so spoiled.  Privileged.  Lucky.  Whatever you call it, I am not in an office today, not standing in line to buy an overpriced sandwich from Starbucks, not sitting through dull meetings wishing I was in my kitchen.  I am in my kitchen/dining room/home office (our house is 750 sq. ft.), and the glorious prospect of lunch hovers.  

If you're in cubicleland, I've been there, and there are some good things about it.  For one, you can pretend to be working and read my blog instead.  For another, you can have camaraderie that's harder to come by when you're working alone or home with kids.  Look how lonely my life has become, for instance--taking photos of food,  finding 101 uses for feta cheese when I could be stopping global warming or raising money for hunger relief.  But this little salad makes up for the loss of my cubicle and it might even save the world.  I'm sorry if you're reading this over remnants of a Starbucks sandwich and you hate me right now.  You have water cooler talk and I don't.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Jamie's Dinners, and I started making chopped salad regularly after reading it.  I'm not big on the whole celebrity chef thing normally, but come on. It's Jamie Oliver.  He's so cute with that lisp and the way he bounces around the kitchen pretending like being Mr. Mom is a regular thing for him.  (I'm sure he and his wife have 20 nannies.)  Even Yancey has a crush on him.  Jamie says that chopped salad is a gift to your guests (or family or yourself) because you've done oodles of chopping and each forkful packs such varied veggie goodness.  Today, I happened to have some washed, chopped romaine in the fridge, so the work was a little less. (It's prepped only because I was trying to save it from the brink.  Don't think too highly of me.)

I'm too lazy to look up Jamie's recipe right now, but he includes radicchio and a recipe for vinaigrette.  I love radicchio, but it's difficult to find good fresh stuff without going down to Pike Place, another farmers market (Columbia City opens April 30!) or a posh grocery store. And even if said posh grocery store has it, there goes your food budget for the week.  In the summer, I also use tomatoes and we eat it for dinner with a loaf of bread.

So here's the In Praise of Leftovers version.  Today's version, at least.  Still got that pita sitting around, that Bulgarian feta, and some veggies that need rescuing.  I told you--I am serious about this leftovers thing.  I hope I've given you something to talk about at the water cooler tomorrow and that we're still friends even though you're stuck with your shrink-wrapped sandwich.  

Love-Where-You-Are Chopped Salad

(serves 4)

1 large head romaine, washed and coarsely chopped

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

1/4 red onion

1/2 English cucumber 

two big handfuls fresh herbs (dill, basil, mint, chives.  I used just dill today)

1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese

handful Kalamata olives

2 or 3 Tb. olive oil

juice from one lemon

salt and pepper to taste

2 griddled pita breads, torn into pieces (brush with olive oil, throw in a hot skillet OR brush with olive oil and quickly broil, getting just one side crusty)

Cut everything into large diced pieces and mix in a bowl (except feta, olive oil, salt, pepper, and pita).  In two batches, dump the salad onto a cutting board and chop into bite-size pieces.  Not teeny-tiny, but enough that things start to mush together just a little bit.  Put back into the bowl, throw the feta in, and juice the lemon and pour the olive oil over.  Season with salt and pepper, break the pita in, and toss gently with your hands.  Wherever you are, cubicle or small sunlit kitchen, don't answer the phone or check your email for a few minutes.