A few days ago I was sipping mocktails at Mundaka and gazing at The Lone Cyprus on the iconic 17 Mile Drive along the Pacific coastline.
Today I was stopping to smell the lilacs on a walk around the neighborhood. As always, modern travel never ceases to amaze me!
BTW – I semi shrieked out oud when I saw these babies blooming on my favorite lilac bush near my house (what, you don’t have a favorite lilac bush in your ‘hood?) When I left for California they were just baby buds but today they were full-fledged, aromatic blooms. I could smell them from a block away – SWOON! I can’t wait for the peony bushes in the neighborhood to start flowering next!
At any rate, you can take the girl out of California, but you can’t take the California out of the girl and despite the fact that I’m home sweet home, I seemed to have left my taste buds out west. The first thing I did today was walk to the grocery store (after having to turn around halfway there because I forgot money – d’oh!) to get the ingredients for a California Cobb Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette to make for lunch.
After three days of eating salads with the Dole folks, you’d think I would have had enough for one week, but it actually inspired me to get even more creative with my greens and give ‘em a California spin. I thought about this combination the entire way home yesterday.
See, a Cobb Salad normally contains a fixed mix of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, which I kept some of, but to give it a west coast spin I also added cool and breezy ingredients like crisp cucumber, sweet strawberries, and creamy avocado.
Drizzled with a homemade Tarragon Vinaigrette, this was the best combo of crispy, creamy, sweet, savory – and not to mention so filling. This ain’t no side salad. This is a meal.
Start the Cobb Salad by preparing 4 hard boiled eggs. Want to know how to get perfect hard boiled eggs every time? Add eggs to a saucepan then fill with cool water 1″ above the tops.
Bring the water to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, then place a lid on top and let them sit for 12 minutes for large eggs (9 for medium, 15 for XL.)
Drain then submerge in cold water and use right away, or peel then stash in the fridge. Perfect every time!
BTW – in celebration of National Egg Month, a few weeks ago I visited Rose Acre Farms in Stuart, IA to check out how they’re contributing to the 15 billion (with a B!) eggs that Iowa produces each year – the most of any state in the country. You can read about my visit on the Join My Journey site > (Note to self: enough with the hair nets!)
Next, get to chopping the fresh ingredients for the salad including 1 cup each tomatoes, cucumbers, and strawberries and 1 avocado. There was a strawberry farm right down the road from Carmel Valley Ranch, where I stayed this week, and I pressed my nose against the glass every time we passed by. The strawberries I had each morning for breakfast, and in several desserts, were indescribably sweet. Fresh from the earth. Mmm!
When the eggs have cooled, chop ‘em up, then also cook/chop 1/2lb chicken breasts and 1/2lb bacon. Use leftovers for both, if you have ‘em!
Finally, turn to zee greens. I like Cobb Salads made with hearty lettuces that stand up to the weight of the toppings, so I bought Dole’s Italian Blend which combines crispy romaine lettuce with hearty radicchio to act as the bed for the flavorful ingredients on top.
Ready? Set. Assemble!
California Cobb Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
10oz Dole Salad Blend (I used Italian Blend)
1/2lb chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1/2lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 avocado, chopped
For the Tarragon Vinaigrette:
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoon raspberry blush vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
10-12 tarragon leaves, torn
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- For the Tarragon Vinaigrette: combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor or blender. Slowly stream in olive while processing until smooth. Taste and adjust salt & pepper if necessary then place into the refrigerator.
- Divide lettuce between four plates then divide toppings between plates. Drizzle with Tarragon Vinaigrette then serve.
- Tips & Notes: Make vinaigrette up to several days ahead of time. Cook and chop proteins and other toppings ahead of time. Serve strawberries at room-temperature for the best flavor.
You could drizzle the salad with your favorite dressing or make an easy Tarragon Vinaigrette, like I did. I’ve been seeing tarragon this, and tarragon that for weeks, and have never tried the herb, so I thought I’d give it a go in this vinaigrette. It was wonderful!
Start by plucking 10-12 tarragon leaves form the stem, then tearing them up and adding to a food processor or blender. Tarragon tastes like licorice – it’s wild. And really, really good. The dressing didn’t taste anything at all like licorice, rather, it had a nice herby flavor. Very mild.
Next add 2 Tablespoons each lemon juice and raspberry blush vinegar (could use red wine vinegar,) salt and pepper, and 1 small shallot, roughly chopped.
Place a lid on top then slowly stream in 6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil when processing or blending, and then taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
Between the California avocados and sweet strawberries, and salty bacon and juicy tomatoes, each bite of this salad was a new experience. Hope you love it as much as I did!