Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Buttermilk Ranch

A very bad, awful, terrible, no good thing happened yesterday. Something only a food blogger can understand. My very favorite seasoned (pictured below), perfectly rustic baking sheet was ruined. To the untrained eye it may look as if something good happened, after all, it looks new again, but to me, it’s a tragedy. Do you know how long it took to get it that way? To pop perfectly in photos? To be the perfect backdrop to countless food photo shoots? Years.

Long story short, someone was trying to be super nice and saw the “dirty” pan and proceeded to scrub it with one of those hardcore stainless steel scrubbers that could remove 100-year old rust from metal – I walked in at the tail end of the mutilation and gasped in horror…and then secretly cried. She could tell I wasn’t thrilled, but I managed to squeak out a fake and forced, “It’s ok!” before I scurried outside to drown my sorrows. I’m still not over it.

Just look at how that bacon glitters off the moody baking sheet. It’s beautiful! Take a good look, because this is last time we’ll ever see her. May she rest in peace.

Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Buttermilk Ranch

I am completely self-aware of how utterly ridiculous I sound, so we’ll move on to the topic of the day. Chopped salad.

I’m not really sure what it is about chopped salads that make them so much more appealing to me than any other salad; maybe it’s because I know I won’t be awkwardly stuffing giant salad leaves into my mouth while simultaneously trying to carry on a conversation, but every time I spy it on a menu, I’m drawn in.

This particular salad includes all of my favorite summer salad produce, plus bacon and croutons, therefore making it my new favorite way to eat leafy greens.

Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Buttermilk Ranch

Throwing salads together is obviously not brain surgery by any means, but I like to do a couple of things that make them a little bit more worthy of a recipe than your run-of-the-mill kitchen sink salad.

1. I always, always make my own salad dressing. I can’t tell you the last time I purchased a pre-packed bottle of dressing. For one, the fat and calories in those things are appalling. Two, have you seen the terrifying ingredient list? Making dressing at home, is not only healthier for you, it’s a heck of a lot less expensive and I’ll bet you have plenty of items already in your fridge to at the very least, throw together a quick vinaigrette of some sort. Here, I made a super healthy, quick ranch dressing with tangy buttermilk, a good amount of non-fat plain Greek yogurt, some dried dill, garlic, a little sirracha, onion powder, Dijon mustard and salt. All the ingredients are thrown in a mason jar and shaken until combined. Comes together in five minutes, at most.

2. Homemade croutons. I cannot live without homemade croutons. Like, dressing, I can’t remember the last time, (if ever) that I purchased those stale, hard pieces of bread from a box. I typically have leftover bread of some sort on hand, so when it’s on its last leg, I just cut the leftovers into a small dice, drizzle it with a little bit of olive oil, some seasoning and pop them into the oven until they’re crispy and brown. I store them in an airtight container and pull them out as needed. Here, since I was already cooking up bacon, I took some of the bacon fat and tossed it with some whole-grain sandwich bread we had leftover. I seasoned it simply with a little bit of salt, garlic powder and pepper and then threw them on the same baking sheet the bacon was cooked on and popped them into the oven.

Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Buttermilk Ranch

Being a summer salad, of course, there’s copious amounts of grilled corn (you can boil it or sauté it as well), freshly chopped tomatoes (I like to pre-season mine with plenty of salt), and my favorite summer salad green, romaine lettuce. I prefer romaine for chopped salads, just because it has a crunch and crisp bite other dark leafy greens don’t, but obviously if it’s not your thing, you can switch it out.

Because no salad is complete with a cheese, crumbled feta is sprinkled over the top, but goat cheese or blue cheese would also be perfect.

Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Buttermilk Ranch

I like to toss the greens with the corn, tomatoes and cheese, then sprinkle the bacon and crouton on top to retain their crispiness. I let everyone dress their salad as the please…because some of us, like to drown ours…

Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Buttermilk Ranch

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Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Buttermilk Ranch
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: serves 4-6
Ingredients
  • 6 slices of center-cut bacon
  • 2 cups diced whole-wheat or whole grain bread
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 hearts of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 ears of cooked corn, kernels removed
  • 2 cups diced yellow or red cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Dressing
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons non-fat plain greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon dry dill
  • ¾ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sirracha (optional)
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line bacon up on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve three teaspoons of the bacon fat, discard the rest. Chop bacon.
  2. Toss the bread cubes with the bacon fat. Sprinkle with garlic powder and salt. Toss to combine. Spread the bread on the baking sheet and pop into the oven. Bake until golden brown, about five minutes, toss halfway through.
  3. Place lettuce in serving bowl or serving platter. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with corn, tomatoes and feta. Sprinkle top with bacon and croutons. Serve with dressing.
Dressing:
  1. Place all ingredients in a mason jar. Secure lid and shake until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Chopped Summer Salad with Spicy (Light) Ranch Dressing
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