One of my all time favorite restaurants is part of a chain — a really good chain and one that has been around for decades. It is part of the Lettuce Entertain You chain of themed restaurants in the States and hails from none other than my kinda town, Chicago.
I remember the first time I lunched at Maggiano’s Little Italy back in 1995 and had this amazing salad. It was a hot and beautiful July day, as days in July in Chi usually are. I rode my bike from work, as I did way back then in 1995, to Navy Pier and parked it on the deck of the USS Samuel Eliot Morison, a US battleship. My cousin, Tommy Daniel happened to be the commander of this massive ship. The ship docked in Chicago as part of a recruitment effort. He invited a group of family and friends to tour the ship. Most of what I remember was all those sailors and how cramped the ship was below deck. Afterwards we went to Maggiano’s on Clark Street for lunch.
My mom suggested the family sized chopped salad as a starter. It was packed with sweet, sour, hot, crunchy, smooth, bitter and silky on one plate. I have been imitating this salad since. The nice thing is, after I had the salad, I called Maggiano’s ready to beg for the recipe. They enthusiastically gave them the ingredients.
I hop you like it!!!
Mock Maggiano’s Chopped Salad and Mock Maggiano’s Dressing Recipes
1 head crisp (iceberg) lettuce, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into bite sized pieces
¾ cups tomatoes, diced
1 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pancetta, chopped and pan fried until crispy (can use prosciutto or bacon)
Arrange chopped crisp (iceberg) lettuce on a platter then top with chopped romaine and top with diced tomatoes.
Around the edge of the platter, sprinkle diced avo, then sprinkle crumbled blue cheese and chopped pancetta.
Top with salad dressing.
(I made half recipe, which yields 125 mls (½ cup))
½ teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup water
1½ teaspoons garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ cup white vinegar salt, to taste
¾ cup canola oil
½ cup virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (omit if using hot mustard)
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorn, fresh ground
¼ teaspoon fresh oregano (or 3/4 t. dried oregano)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Pour water and vinegar into a blender bowl or food processor.
Add sugar, mustard, peppers, oregano, garlic, salt and garlic.
Blend until smooth.
Combine the olive oil and the vegetable oil.
While the blender is running, slowly drizzle oil into blender and blend for 3 to 4 minutes.
This creates the emulsion, which will make the dressing appear creamy and slow down separation.
Now for the Parmesan. You have a choice. If you would like a very smooth dressing, add the Parmesan and pulse with other ingredients. If you would like more texture, just add the Parm to the blender bowl and simply mix it in with a spoon, though with the Parmesan stirred in, the dressing seems to separate faster.
Photo Credit: Photo of Maggiano’s facade was taken from Planet99.