If you follow A Love Letter to Food on Facebook, you may have seen this picture before. (And if you haven’t liked my Facebook page yet, I’d be most honored if you would!) A few days ago was my birthday, and as an avid–or obsessive, depending on how you look at it–home cook, I typically would rather make something truly spectacular at home for my birthday dinner than go out. This Stetson Chopped Salad was THE ONE dinner I knew would be birthday-worthy this year.
What is a Stetson Chopped Salad? (And who in their right mind chooses a salad for their birthday dinner?) Well, in the Phoenix area, the Stetson is a local food celebrity. It’s pretty impressive for any salad to attain celebrity status, but somehow, sometimes, it happens. After all, you’ve heard of Cobb, Waldorf, and Wedge. These famous salads are like the old Hollywood starlets of healthy American cuisine. Classic, standard, glam. The Stetson Chopped Salad, on the other hand, is like the up-and-coming Western girl hitting the big time. Its humble origin lies with Cowboy Ciao, a restaurant located, appropriately, on Stetson Drive in Scottsdale.
A few years ago, some friends had us over for dinner and served a homemade version of the Stetson. It was an edible work of art, with a taste no less extraordinary than the presentation. But we definitely found ourselves in “why-do-these-flavors-go-together-this-makes-no-sense” territory. Who the heck thought of putting sweet (dried currants) with savory (corn and tomatoes) with smoked salmon and a creamy basil dressing?
IT MAKES NO LOGICAL SENSE.
But trust me, there’s a reason this salad is famous. You just have to go with it. And when you do, you’re gonna be like…
Even when my husband and I eventually ate at Cowboy Ciao and of course ordered the “real” restaurant version, it didn’t quite compare to the one our friend had made. (She is a trained chef, so that probably helped.) With this memory in mind, I made my own birthday version, and it was indeed an awesome mix of flavors, textures, and visual appeal. Definitely a salad worth choosing for a special occasion.
Oh, and the other reason I chose salad for my birthday? Cause I knew this was coming afterward!
Raspberry Almond Layer Cake for dessert definitely rounded out the birthday meal experience. 🙂
Stetson Chopped Salad
For the salad:
- 6 c. arugula
- 1 c. cooked Israeli couscous
- 2-3 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
- 1 c. toasted salted pepitas
- 1 c. dried sweet corn (regular corn would also work in a pinch)
- 1 c. dried cranberries
- 1 c. tomatoes, chopped
For the dressing:
- 2 Tbsp. basil pesto
- 1/4 c. mayonnaise
- 1/4 c. buttermilk (or 2 Tbsp. sour cream + 2 Tbsp. milk)
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 shallot, chopped
Assemble the salad:
- Spread arugula leaves evenly on a large, flat platter. Cover with layered rows of couscous, salmon, pepitas, sweet corn, cranberries, and tomatoes.
Make the dressing:
- Combine all dressing ingredients in a measuring cup and mix with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Mix salad tableside, if desired, and serve with dressing on the side.