There's a well-loved restaurant here in Scottsdale called Cowboy Ciao. As you can probably imagine, they serve Western fare--steaks, chops, and plenty of drinks--all gussied up and modernized. It's definitely not the kind of place where you're likely to leave hungry. But that doesn't mean you have to leave completely overstuffed, either.
You see, one of their most popular dishes is actually a salad. A big, hearty salad, but a salad nonetheless. It's a chopped salad, which arrives at your table undressed so you can admire the perfectly arranged rows of goodies. Salty smoked salmon, creamy Israeli couscous, crunchy pepitas, sweet corn, and peppery arugula--it's all got its rightful place in this outstanding and out-of-the-ordinary dish. Once all those components are mixed together with the dressing, you've got yourself one unique meal.
I messed with the recipe as little as possible. The only necessary change I made was swapping out the dehydrated sweet corn Cowboy Ciao uses for frozen because I just couldn't find any dehydrated corn. I also lightened up the dressing quite a bit, using a mixture of strained yogurt and low-fat mayonnaise instead of the house-made aioli they use. Trust me, with all the incredible flavors in this salad, you won't miss those extra calories one bit.
Stetson Chopped Salad
slightly adapted from Cowboy Ciao
seen in Phoenix Magazine, January 2013
For the dressing:
1/4 c. pesto (store-bought or homemade)
1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
1/3 c. strained plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
2 TBSP low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 c. low-fat buttermilk
1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper, plus more to taste
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt, to taste
For the salad:
1/2 c. uncooked Israeli (pearl) couscous
1/2 c. sweet corn kernels
1/4 c. Asiago cheese, grated
1/4 c. pepitas
1/4 c. dried black currants
2 oz. arugula, chopped
2 Roma or other preferred tomatoes, chopped
2 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
1. To make the dressing, blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container. Dressing wil keep as long as expiration dates on dairy products allow. (Make ahead opportunity!)
2. Bring 2/3 c. salted water to a boil. Add couscous, cover, and reduce to simmer 8-10 minutes. Remove cover and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, place corn kernels in a dry skillet. Cook over medium heat until warmed through but not browned. Set aside.
4. In a small bowl, mix together Asiago, pepitas, and currants.
5. Assemble salads in large, shallow bowls. Working from left to right, arrange tomatoes, corn, currant mixture, arugula, couscous, and salmon into neat rows. Spoon about 1/4 c. dressing into a small dish and serve alongside salad. Serves 2.