Chopped Veggie Picnic Salad

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A bounty of veggies!

I was inspired to make this salad by my father, a man who believes in eating not only in a heathy manner, but in a way that reflects his environmental concerns. To that end he eats small portions, mostly vegetables, and he eschews beef and gluttony. My dad is a vigorous man and will undoubtedly outlive me, due in no small part to his dietary habits. Now I can’t really embrace that particular lifestyle; I’d say my job doesn’t permit me to eat healthfully, but that’s mostly a cop-out. I just like food of all kinds and I like to eat. I’m OMNIVOROUS, after all, and I probably wouldn’t be cooking for a living if I didn’t like to eat just about everything!

My father is partial to chopped salads and a few months ago during his last visit he made an especially tasty salad of all kinds of things including cauliflower and tofu and cabbage and carrots and tomatoes and about thirty other veggies. This recipe is a bit like that — it’s complicated but easy to make, it’s got all kinds of things going on but works in a balanced way, it’s refreshing but filling, and it’s very open to interpretation. Don’t like cabbage? Substitute with fennel. Don’t like bell peppers? Throw in a summer squash. Don’t like carrots? Throw in fresh corn. Don’t like zucchini…you get the picture. Be creative, use what you have in the fridge, use as many vegetables as you can get your hands on.

Anyway, if you make this recipe don’t feel you have to stick to these quantities. Use what you’ve got and don’t be a stickler. Just keep the general idea of the salad and dress it accordingly. I made the salad vegan, but if you want to use regular mayonnaise in the dressing, have at it!

By the way, it’s called a Picnic Salad because you can dress it in advance and serve it casually. Dress the salad early and then stir in the nuts and corn chips right before serving. One note: the salt in the dressing might pull some moisture out of the veggies and it may be a trifle wet after sitting for a couple of hours; just drain off a little of the excess liquid if you notice that occurring.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegenaise or regular mayo
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 3 cups chopped purple cauliflower
  • 3 cups chopped raw white mushrooms
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped watercress
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped iceberg lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped pressed (and/or smoked) tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped purple cabbage
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 cup crushed cashews
  • 1 cup crushed blue corn tortilla chips

Now do this:

Whisk together vegenaise, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, sesame seeds, salt, honey, pepper, and basil. Refrigerate until your salad is assembled.

Toss to combine all of the remaining ingredients above except the nuts and corn chips. Toss with the dressing until nicely coated. Allow the salad to sit, refrigerated, for at least an hour. Drain off any extra liquid and toss in the cashews and blue corn chip. Serve and eat!

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