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Monday, January 18, 2010

BBQ Chopped Salad at California Pizza Kitchen

I am not sure I have ever been so excited about a post before! Are you ready for this?! I have successfully made the BBQ chopped Salad from California Pizza Kitchen, which I have been smitten by since I first had it several years ago. And even more exciting--I made a vegan version by omitting the chicken and making a vegan garden herb ranch dressing. Since I know I am not the only one who loves this salad (and CPK's miso salad), I thought I should show you how you can make it too!

I should probably point out that I am not vegan and it isn't generally my mission to veganize things, but there is a really easy explanation for making vegan versions of things. You can usually make vegan versions with the stuff that you already have in your kitchen, refrigerator or pantry! It's true. That's how this salad came about--I didn't have any chicken in the house or ranch dressing.

My friend, Eli, says that the best restaurants are those that create dishes that inspire you to want to figure out how to make the dish yourself in your own kitchen. I have to agree. I am not a trained chef and I often eat wonderful, delicious things that make me think "I have absolutely no idea how to make that". But what really makes me excited is when I eat something and I can detect all or most of the ingredients. Then I feel pretty confident that if I just gather those familiar ingredients up, I will likely be able to recreate that dish even without a recipe. That is what makes me excited about cooking in my kitchen or sharing those experiences and knowledge with all of you.

At CPK, a half order costs $8.99 and a full order is $12.49, plus $2.00 if you want to add on a half of an avocado. It's a pretty pricey salad, which is partly why I desperately wanted to make it at home. Here is the thing about this salad--it does have many ingredients, but it is not necessarily labor intensive. It's just a matter of assemblying it all together. Of course, I am sure that it's much easier at a restaurant when all the items are prepped and chopped and the prep cook just mixes up a serving when ordered. But since you and I don't have prep cooks in our kitchen (or, if you do, can I come over?!), just put a little music on and chop away and it will be pretty simple to mix altogether once you have all the items ready. Also, if you aren't vegan and already have some ranch dressing, go ahead and use that! And if you want to add some protein to the salad, you could throw in some cubed or marinated tofu (or even brown up some diced tofu and simmer it for a couple minutes in some of the bbq sauce).

Now, the star quality of this salad is its crunchiness--every element is meant to give the salad a great, satisfying crisp crunch. All of these crunchy bits are what saves it from the fact that it is a fairly wet salad, as salads go--the ranch dressing is pretty thin and then it is topped with bbq sauce. This is why I don't recommend putting any tortilla strips or chips into the salad to be mixed in because it tends to become soggy too quickly--just keep it as a garnish for the top!

Adapted from the original recipe from California Pizza Kitchen


* 6 oz. silken tofu (like Mori-Nu) or 1/2 package of tofu
* 1/2 cup vegenaise
* 1/4 cup green onion, chopped (about 2-3 stalks)
* 4 tsp. lemon juice
* 1 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
* 1/4 tsp. dried dill (or 1/2 tsp. freshly chopped dill)
* 1.5 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
* 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
* 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
* 3 tsp. red wine vinegar
* 3 tsp. agave nectar


* 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce (about 1/8-inch-wide strips)
* 6-8 fresh basil leaves, shredded into 1/8-inch-wide strips
* 1 medium sized jicama, diced into small cubes
* 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
* 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 cup sweet white corn kernels (freshly cut off the cob if possible)
* 3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
* 2 large ripe fresh tomatoes, diced (save a handful for garnish)
* 1 ripe avocado, diced (garnish)
* 1/2 cup good quality bottled barbecue sauce (for garnish; I like Trader Joe's Kansas-style BBQ sauce)
* 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions (for garnish)
* large handful of tortilla chips, lightly crushed (for garnish)
* lime wedges (for garnish)


* In a blender, whizz all the ingredients for the salad dressing together until smooth. Don't worry, it will be a little runny.
* In a large bowl, mix together all of the salad ingredients except for the garnish items (some tomatoes, bbq sauce, tortilla chips, and lime).
* Add the ranch dressing to the salad in small increments until it is dressed to your liking. I used less than 1/4 cup so there will be plenty of dressing leftover.
* Pile the salad onto a large plate or serving platter. Add the diced tomatoes around the edges of the salad, top with the avocado, scallions, tortilla chips and lime wedges. Drizzle some bbq sauce over the whole thing.


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