Herb-tastic Chopped Salad

Herbs are a fantastic addition to any cook’s repertoire. In fact, Anthony Bourdain once said that if you want to instantly improve your cooking, just add some fresh herbs.

But what do you do with them when you have too much? The answer: make an herb-tastic chopped salad!

As an added bonus, this is a great way to practice our knife skills.

This mission is inspired by the ubiquitous Middle Eastern salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley. But we can take it to the next level by experimenting with different herbs and veggies. Just use what you have available—it will all be good as long as it’s fresh!

Some herbs you can try are:

  • cilantro
  • basil
  • dill
  • mint
  • parsley (the flat-leaf kind has more flavor than the curly kind)

Combine that with any/all of the following:

  • tomato
  • bell pepper
  • cucumber
  • avocado
  • red onion
  • scallion
  • garlic

... and you have yourself a cool, refreshing side, equally suited to the hot desert or a blazing July heat wave.

Tools Needed:

  • chef's knife
  • large mixing bowl
  • cutting board

Ingredients Needed:

  • any combination of salad veggies (see description for ideas) about 2 pounds total
  • any combination of tender herbs (see description for ideas) 1 small bunch
  • lemon 1 small
  • olive oil2 tablespoons

Lesson Gallery... Yum yum.

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  • Hi Kristina! Welcome and congrats on your first mission! Your salad looks perfect. I’m glad you enjoyed this mission and learned knife-y stuff to boot. You get 3 points: +1 for the creative choice of herbs, +1 for doing the mission, and +1 for being first!

  • That pork looks amazing. I think you should send me some next time you have too much. You get 2 points: +1 for the mission, +1 for your creativity!

  • Is there a such thing as too many herbs? (Okay, I know the answer to that one… there was this one time I made a salad with just mint. It was… interesting.) But yours looks fantastic! Love the colors and the al-fresco bacground :) You get 2 points: +1 for the mission itself, and +1 for creativity.

  • Hey Karen! Wow I am super impressed by all the experimentation you did. Instructions can help but there’s nothing like hands-on practice and experience to make you an awesome cook. Sounds like you have a handle on things, though! Trusting your taste buds and preferences is key to having fun with food. However, may I suggest you give a playful challenge to your radish aversion? :) I suggest eating them halved, with butter! (BUTTER!) I had this once at a café in Brooklyn. They took those long narrow French radishes, cut them in half, and served them with a blob of sweet cream butter and some coarse sea salt. SO GOOD. Anyhow, you get 3 points! +1 for creativity, +1 for helpfulness, and +1 for doing the mission. Congrats!

  • Ha, and reading through other entries I think I interpreted “salad” differently! Instead of tabouleh, I went for leafy green salad. That probably would have helped flavors come together more, and I would have picked out many more vegetables. Next time…

  • This mission started at mid-day, when I took home some fresh dill and fresh mint from the farmer’s market in McGolrick Park. Sundays are my cooking day, and I’d just gotten back from a trip (read: eating English meat pies and Scotch eggs) so I knew I wanted something simple for dinner, but still something I had made myself. Fresh herb-y salad seemed like just the right level of challenge.

    Looking back, a few things I’ve learned:

    1. Always use the two bowl work station technique Tina recommended
    I usually just stuff everything onto my 8.5″x11″ wooden cutting board, pivoting every now and then to dump chopped bits into the sink, later to be transferred to the trash under the sink. Meanwhile, the vegetables I’ve just cut languish on the board and get lost among the others. Having two bowls, each dedicated to a specific purpose that solved an unmet need I didn’t really notice I had, made my workflow smoother. Plus I felt more professional and “chef-y” automatically. Win.

    2. Choose your ingredients ahead of time – don’t get too excited in the super market
    Initially I thought I’d go plain and simple: lacinato kale, massaged with olive oil and tossed with the fresh herbs. But then I walked into Key Foods. And there were so many choices! And I so wanted to indulge my recent food-focused undertaking and ‘reward’ this behavior so I’d do it again. So I picked up some beautiful red radishes to add to the mix, plus a red pepper. Then I got to chopping, tasted a slice of radish and remembered just why I’d never bought it before. Too bitter. Way too bitter and crisp, and without any sort of dressing beyond olive oil and lemon, I knew it wouldn’t fly. I ended up throwing out the radishes. Lesson learned.

    3. Choose the overall flavor that you want to come out
    In making my wheatberry salad way back when, I googled a recipe that had some great advice: To make a summer salad sing, make sure you have one sour ingredient (e.g. dried cranberries) and one nutty ingredient (e.g. walnuts). I figured that this salad qualified, so I should do the same – I sprinkled on a few almonds and a few golden raisins too. But, with the dill and mint having such strong flavors, I felt that they were all competing to be the one that dominated. I also had worried that having salad for dinner wouldn’t fill me up, and in an “ah-ha!” moment remembered the tempeh I had picked up a while back and shut away in the freezer, never to se the light of day. I figured (again) that this was probably the only way I would eat the thing (it had also been an impulse purchase – beware!) and so I spent the next twenty minutes Googling just how to cook it. I ultimately landed on thawing it in a bowl of lukewarm water, ‘steaming’/ boiling it, chopping it into cubes, and then pan-frying with sesame oil. When I tasted it at the end of all this, it was pretty bland. So I pulled out some peanut butter and made a dipping sauce by scooping some into a small dish… and then just dipped each piece of tempeh into it as I ate. I could have made a real dipping sauce, but by then my stomach was already grumbling and I couldn’t be bothered to Google yet again. What I forgot was that peanut butter doesn’t really jive well with olive oil and lemon flavors. Two different cuisine styles, I think – one trying to be a peanut satay, the other an Italian renaissance. Only one can be victor in the end.

    Overall, I would only make this as a side dish for my (very unlikely) future picnic potlucks. I’m not confident that I can combine the right vegetables and herbs (I had wanted to get an avocado too, but figured that would taste funny with dill and lacinato kale), and without adding a protein of some sort (more nuts? tofu?) I’m not sure I would be full.

    Thanks!

  • Picnic, anyone? I think I went a little crazy with the herbs…dill, mint, basil. Also kale, snow peas, cucumber and the grated carrot for a hit of color. I don’t think I realized I was in somewhat of a salad rut until I made this. I really like just the simple olive oil & lemon dressing. Freshness itself. Used a salad spinner to wash all the herbs at once.

  • A quick light supper with mint as the herb and tomato, zucchini, kale, red onion and cucumber for veg. The nice thing about this salad is that basically you can throw anything in there and it will taste good. FRESH VEGGIES ARE AMAZE. Bonus: fridge is now cleared for our weekend away.

  • I’m a huge fan of Mediterranean cuisine, so this was a great recipe for me. I used cucumber, tomato, and bell paper. For herbs, I used parsley and pepper. We mixed it with some leftover pork to make a delicious summery pita wrap. It was a super easy meal and healthy too.

  • My chopped salad turned out great! I loved learning about curling my fingers for chopping, seeding the cucumbers, and using a forward motion for cutting. I used dill and a bit of oregano for the herbs, and cucumber, tomato, red onion and a little mushroom for the vegetables. Thanks for the great lesson!