Friday, January 14, 2011

Julie's Favorite Salad

Okay, I can't help it. I had to post this picture.

Kitka, one of our two cats, is determined to open the door to the room where we keep her food.

She's hanging on the doorknob in this shot. Can't believe I timed it and got the picture! I swear, if she had opposable thumbs we would be in trouble. Her sister, Violet, is much more sedate than this little critter.

She's constantly trying to get in there and I can just about hear her calling - Mom, I'm hungry!!!

When your family is hungry, it's always great to have a go-to. I particularly like to go out, but when that's not possible, I love trying to recreate favorite dishes at home.

I like salad as a meal. So does my husband. We both tend to order Cobb Salads, or Garbage Salads, or Capaccio, or a restaurant's specialty salad, etc. when we go out. Carpaccio... mmm... but that's a post for another day.

There's a standout salad that sits head and shoulders above all we've tried. It's the Barbecue Ranch Chopped Chicken Salad from our favorite restaurant, Cooper's Hawk. I have no doubt that one of the reasons this restaurant is our favorite is because of that fresh and delicious salad. And also because of its amazing (truly, truly amazing) lobster bisque. But I digress with yet another topic for another day!

The Barbecue Ranch Chopped Chicken Salad we order is so good that we've tried to reproduce it at home. We haven't succeeded completely, but every single attempt has been worth the effort!

Last week my husband said, "You should blog about this!"
So here I am.

The *real* Cooper's Hawk salad has black beans, corn, onion strings, and cucumber in addition to what I'm about to describe below. I don't particularly care for cukes in my salad, so I left them out. And I didn't have any black beans or corn.

But the salad we created was wonderful! No question about it. We tried adding French's fried onions to take the place of the onion strings, but -- eh -- going forward I wouldn't bother. The crispy fried onions competed with the actual salad. When Cooper's Hawk puts theirs together, their onion strings are fresh, soft, and warm.

Julie's Easy Barbecue Ranch Chopped Chicken Salad

Feeds 4

1 bag Fresh Express American blend, contents chopped into small pieces
1 cup of chopped cilantro
1 or 2 (we used 2) avocados, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing (I use homemade Hidden Valley Ranch but you could also use Shel's)
3 Tbsp (give or take) your favorite BBQ sauce
Chopped chicken (I used leftovers)
1/2 cup (or more) shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend)

At the restaurant, the salad is a beautiful thing. At home -- well, it tastes good. We like to put all the ingredients (except for the onions) in a Tupperware bowl with a lid and then shake it up so that everything gets evenly coated with Ranch and BBQ sauce. You may want to adjust those quantities up or down as your tastes dictate.

The version pictured here is one without chicken (for our veggie daughter). Everyone else had finished eating before we remembered to take a picture! LOL

The cilantro is what makes this dish, IMHO. I hope you try it. I bet you'll love it!!

Stay tuned. I'll be announcing the winner of the Quick Reader Contest later today - both here and on my personal blog! Thanks for all your great entries. Love hearing which characters you like (or hate) best!

Mmm... I have a taste for some of that salad right now. And since I have all the ingredients here at home... you know what I'll be doing!



  1. Yummmm... and you mentioned my dressing! *blush*. I'm a big salad lover too, but Chris, not so much.

  2. Shel - Ty again for sharing your dressing with us.

    Julie - Your kitty is ADORABLE. Love that pic. I really enjoy a good salad (forgot how much I love Cobb salad, btw, until you mentioned it)! This chicken salad looks unique and I'm curious what ranch and BBQ will be like on a salad. Wild combo but I love chicken salads like this, and I'm looking forward to trying it. TY for sharing and congrats again on the success of BUFFALO WEST WING!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

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  4. I'm not a salad person, but I do love the BBQ chicken salad at California Pizza Kitchen and yours is very similar to it. Need to get some ingredients.

    Love the kitty hanging on the door.

  5. Your picture is awesome! We had a Siamese that could open our basement door in the kitchen, no matter how firmly we shut it, unless we slid the locking bar. And, boy, did she glare at us when we did that! I think that if she had had opposable thumbs, she would have taken over the world! I love the recipe EXCEPT for the cilantro. Okay, okay, stop throwing things at me! I have a very valid reason for my dislike. I have always thought that cilantro tasted like soap, plain old Ivory dish soap, and since I'm not a fan of soap in my food, I avoid cilantro. I happened to mention my dislike to my mom a couple of years ago and she said "I don't like it either, I think it tastes like soap!" AHA! And son of a gun, a couple of months later, there was a back page article in Nat Geo about a study that had been done that showed approximately 25% of the general population has a genetic quirk that causes cilantro to taste soapy to them! Ain't Mother Nature fascinating? ~Nurse JudyMac

  6. Hahaha! Oh, Kitka is so funny! One day she just might make it into the food room... :)

    I love the sounds of this salad, Julie! Like Cleo, I'm interested in the BBQ sauce and Ranch together. Thanks for sharing it!

  7. Great kitty shot, Julie! What a cute picture, and what a character.

    I wonder if Cooper's Hawk was where I first had this salad? Ever since, it's been my at-home go-to salad. I always make it with black beans, corn, and onions, but no cukes for me either. The ranch/BBQ combination is a natural--delish!
    Judy - AHA - I knew I wasn't a total freak to think cilantro tastes like soap - I'm just quirky!

  8. Love Kitka. How adorable. Love the energy.

    And anything with avocados has my attention!


  9. Shel - your ranch was a hit here. And so easy! Thanks again for sharing with us.

    Cleo - the combination is amazing. I bet you'll add it to your favorites, just like we did.

    Klimt - thanks for stopping by.

    Dru - I haven't had the version at CPK, yet. I don't get there too often because the closest one is about an hour away, but I've always loved the dishes I've had there. I'll have to try theirs out.

    NurseJudy - LOL - a cat who can open doors. Cracks me up, and yet I'm afraid I'm only days away from that myself. I'm so sorry you don't like cilantro - how interesting that there's a genetic predisposition for that. I wonder if your ancestors had a reaction to it (allergic?) and over the years it's watered down to distaste. Hmmm... there's a story in there!

    Elizabeth - I bet you're going to like the combo. One of my daughters doesn't care for the addition of the BBQ sauce, so she leaves that out (such a fun recipe to tinker with!) but I think it gives it that little "je ne sais quoi" taking it to a different level.

    Laine - I wish I could come up with a way to make those delightful string onions at home. Mine come out too fat and not the right flavor. But I'm not giving up. Sorry about the cilantro. I wonder if you and NurseJudy would like basil included instead?

  10. Avery - LOL She's a hoot. And I'm with you on those avocados. Love them in anything!

  11. NurseJudy... what an interesting tidbit. I have a neighbor (one of my regular taste tester friends) who hates cilantro. I love it, and use it often (one of my favorite sauces is a green onion cilantro vinaigrette that is terrific on a spicy chicken dish... but I digress). I am going to have to hunt that study up and tell him he has a genetic defect.

    And any recipe I can use the rotisserie chicken from the store is a keeper for me! It looks terrific!

  12. Dave - rotisserie chicken is perfect in this one! I picked up your green onion cilantro vinaigrette recipe yesterday and I can't wait to give it a go.

  13. Salad sounds scrumptious to me--but not to hubby sitting next to me.

    LOVED the pic of your cat! What a hoot! Our cat eats throughout the day, nibbling. But I could see him trying to get into the bathroom like that when I'm in it with the door closed!

  14. Kitka is so smart! I bet she opens that door eventually. : )

    This salad sound terrific, Julie. Like NurseJudyMac, one of the few flavors I don't like at all is cilantro. One tiny bit of a cilantro leaf is all it takes to turn me off -- hmm, maybe that's a way for me to diet!

    Everything else sounds wonderful, though. Yum!

    ~ Krista

  15. Linda - I wish she would nibble a little all day. But she and her sister gobble all the food as quickly as we put it out. Even when we've tried to over feed them so they get used to it, they eat and eat and eat. It may be because they had to fend for themselves on the street when they were kittens that they don't trust that food will always be there... who knows what goes through a cat's mind?

    Kitka - I bet she will, too. I'm so sorry for those of you who don't like cilantro. That's one of my treats. That and arugula. I feel like it's a special day when I have those. Hmm... I wonder if we should do a week on foods we hate... nah.

  16. I love the Cat picture, clever Kitty, look out Julie. lol
    I think the salad sounds good except for the Cilantro. I have an distinct dislike for cilantro, I don't think it tastes like soap, but I had too much once and now it gags me. I'm sure some other herb can be substituted quite nicely.
    O.K. now I want some salad; and I want a kitten. ;D

  17. Wow - so many people who don't care for cilantro! I wonder if we're exceeding the 25% average. Looks to me (if you count Dave's neighbor) that this group is slightly higher on the cilantro-hating scale than the norm.
    Sue - I hope you get your salad. And a kitten!

  18. Julie, this sounds fabulous (sans chicken, of course). I can see adding halved grape tomatoes and maybe some corn? Or black beans for a little protein? But I love the idea of ranch and BBQ together. Seriously.

    Going to make this over the weekend. :)

    Wendy (who is very pro-cilantro, by the way)

  19. Cats and salad. That's a perfect post. The feline is very cute and resourceful and the salad will be on my table tomorrow night!

    Thanks, Julie.