“Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber, Red Onion and Kalamata Olives 

There is always the unexpected. Even when you expect it, it can still take you by surprise. The weather may change, you can’t find any fresh corn at the store, or a guest may, or may not, be coming and you aren’t going to know until the very last minute. Don’t be caught off guard. If you plan for the unexpected, it isn’t unexpected anymore.

Expect that guest who may have a food sensitivity. Or be vegan. They may, or may not, be joining you. Leave the dairy and nuts to the side, and get some plant-based burgers or hot dogs, just in case. That way you’ll be sure you have a dish for everyone. 

No matter how many sides you have, you can always use one more. Here are two easy options that are light and healthy. You can pull this Mediterranean-inspired “Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber, Red Onion and Kalamata Olives off at this, the very last, minute. Crunchy and cooling, there’s no mayo, so just like you, it will hold up well in the heat. You can make it ahead and refrigerate it. The flavors will just get better over time. It’s gluten-free, plant-based, and dairy-free, if you leave the feta to the side. 

I used mini Persian cucumbers rather than the English variety that was called for. Because the mini ones are smaller, they are quick to dice and they’re a little bit sweet, too. To take some of the bite out of the onion, let it sit in cold water for at least 15 minutes. The cold water helps the enzyme that causes onions to have their pungent flavor to leach out. Taste and adjust the finished salad to your liking, adding maybe a pinch of sugar or some dried oregano, which is what I did. 

This salad is a variation on another great salad, the “Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad from Paul Newman and Michel Nischan’s former Westport, Connecticut restaurant, Dressing Room. It’s another flexible option, packed with vibrant flavors, colors and textures. Featuring celery, carrots, red pepper, apple, cucumber, greens, cabbage, goat cheese, and almonds – everything is all chopped together so you can eat it with a spoon. You can let it stand and it will stay crisp, so it’s great for any holiday meal.

Treviso is a slender variety of radicchio. You can find it with specialty salad greens or just use radicchio in its place. I keep toasted nuts on hand because they are so easy to toss into salads. If you’d like to toast your own, cook small or sliced nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, about 2 to 4 minutes, or until they are fragrant and lightly browned. 

Do note that some of the vegetables will need to sit in the dressing for an hour ahead of time. Chop all of your ingredients, but keep the ones that don’t need marinating separated so that you can easily mix them in closer to serving time. You can also swap in other assertive crumbly cheeses like feta, Cotija, Asiago or blue cheese in place of the goat cheese. To make this salad safe for all of your guests, use maple syrup in place of the honey, and leave the cheese and nuts to the side. 

While you’re at it getting prepared, get ready for the summer ahead. Take a few minutes and check your first aid kits, especially the one in your car. I didn’t have any burn ointment a few weeks ago, when I burned myself getting a hot pan out of the oven. But, I did find some in the first aid kit in our car. Check the expiration dates. Band aids and dressings will stay usable, but the medicines may need to be replaced. 

And since you’re so prepared, pack a medical go bag, a dedicated bag that you can keep packed and ready to go. I took someone to the emergency room quite urgently in the middle of the night once, and realized how unprepared for this I was. The next day, I filled a tote bag with all of the things that might have made the experience better: a small bottle of hand sanitizer, eyeglass wipes, kleenex, chap stick, several tea bags and Starbucks Via packets, some reading material, a few granola bars, a pen, a small legal pad, and a disposable spoon, fork and knife. 

Through the years I have added things as I discovered needing them: a kitchen-size trash bag, a resealable bag, a small pouch for jewelry, a pair of children’s safety scissors, and ear plugs. You can put a list of your medications or other important medical information here, too. I restock this bag and it stays ready to go. I use it anytime someone goes to a doctor’s appointment, and it’s quick to reach for if you have a medical emergency.

Now that you’re prepared for literally anything, stay safe and enjoy every action-packed minute of summer. 

“Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumber, Red Onion and Kalamata Olives 

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium English cucumber, diced
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives 
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • feta cheese (optional)

In a large bowl, combine oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and whisk together.  Add cucumber, tomatoes, onion, olives and parsley and toss to coat. Serve sprinkled with feta, if desired. 

“Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad 

  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium stalks celery, diced (1/4-inch)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced (1/4-inch)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced (1/4-inch)
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and diced (1/4-inch)
  • 1/2 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced (1/4-inch)
  • 1 cup sliced Treviso (see Tips) or radicchio
  • 1 cup sliced arugula, any tough stems removed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced napa, Savoy or other soft cabbage
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 cup crumbled goat cheese

In a large bowl, combine vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper and whisk together. Add celery, carrots and bell pepper to vinaigrette; let marinate for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Add apple, cucumber, Treviso (or radicchio), arugula and cabbage to the bowl; toss to coat. Stir in almonds, reserving some for topping. Top with goat cheese and remaining almonds. 


Donna Ferguson

Donna Ferguson

I love to cook, garden, and write about all the things in Vancouver and the Northwest that make life so great.

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