While generally I don't consider using recipes for salads--who needs to be told how many radishes they like or what type of lettuce they prefer?--once in a blue moon, I'll do it.
Such an occasion arose last Sunday, which you may recall was Mother's Day. While considering what to make for the celebratory lunch, I contemplated and nixed a variety of ideas: a savory tart; a light-ish seafood pasta; a creamy soup with some kind of fancy sandwich.
None of these seemed quite right, and as I dithered about what to make and the hours slipped away, I eventually came across this appealing recipe for Cobb Salad over at Smitten Kitchen.
Since I'd already determined the lunch would include dessert (the so-so strawberry shortcake), I wanted an entree that was satisfying but not heavy. We had the rest of the afternoon to soldier through, after all, during which I planned on torturing my mother with hundreds of photographs from our trip. I wanted an alert audience! (For the record, she sat through them patiently, even asking questions and oohing and aahing at all the right moments. What a mom!)
Cobb Salad was just the ticket. And while I've eaten many in my lifetime, I've never made one. Turns out they are spectacularly easy, though do require a number of steps and quite a bit of chopping.
I made a few minor adjustments: adding more lemon juice to the vinaigrette (my taste nearly always runs to the bitter or sour; I hate to think what this might say about my personality?); and ditching the watercress for some green leaf lettuce I had on hand (watercress would have been excellent, but I'd already purchased two kinds of lettuce for this salad, and for some reason, this was my self-imposed limit).
Although the original recipe called for serving the salad in one magnificent bowl, I knew this was not the way I would want to be served a main-course salad. I imagined all of us trying to delicately serve ourselves while trying to ensure we got some of everything. Meanwhile, I envisioned wasted crumbles of blue cheese and bacon bits overflowing onto the tablecloth. Instead, I opted to dress all the greens together, then dish up the salads separately, with the toppings arranged on each one as artfully as I could manage. I brought extra dressing to the table, which we all used.
I have to say, the salad was an indisputable hit. Quality ingredients make the difference, of course, since there's little skill involved in assembly. I had just roasted a chicken the day before was able to use that rather than a simple poached breast (which I would have done otherwise but would not have been nearly as flavorful), we had a perfectly ripe avocado on hand from our CSA box, and the husband had chosen a heavenly blue cheese from Marin. With crusty bread and glasses of Prosecco, it was a lunch more than worth the (minimal) effort.