assembling macho salad

Macho salad

24 October 2014

I love this hefty-not-heavy salad, featured in a number of Hillstone restaurants, in spite of its goofball name. I’m not sure what makes it macho – lots of dates; very corny? And shouldn’t a macho salad be beefy, not chicken? But name aside, it’s the mix of flavors and textures – greens, chicken, chopped dates, corn, avocado, toasted almonds, goat cheese – that makes this salad meal memorably satisfying.

When you have leftover roast chicken on hand, or you’re grabbing a rotisserie chicken as a shortcut, this salad won’t leave you feeling like you cheated on dinner. It’s easy to assemble – you can use frozen corn straight from the bag, skip toasting the nuts – and the dressing is just a dab of mustard shaken with vinegar and olive oil.

You’d pay $19 for this at the restaurant, or easily $50 for two after tax and tip. It’s as good or better at home – though at the restaurant they do have pretty great cornbread croutons.

For this salad, I bought medjool dates for the first time from the popular vendor at my regular Sunday farmers market. He is always there, giving out huge plump dates as samples. The whole dates are nearly as big as Halloween candy, and almost as sweet, too – chewy and caramelly. I’ve enjoyed the samples before, and though I’ve been intrigued to try using dates as a sugar substitute in baking, it took macho salad to inspire me to man up and buy a bag.

You could sub in another dried fruit – figs, cranberries, raisins, prunes – and this salad would still be good. But the dates add an indefinable brown-sugary chew that is so much more interesting.

cutting dates

I’ve also tried roasting the corn, tomatoes and almonds.

roasting corn tomatoes almonds

Really I should have put the almonds halfway through, especially since they were sliced, not chopped. After 10 minutes, the corn and tomatoes were good, but the almonds were on the dark side of toast.

roasted corn tomatoes almonds

This salad has a lot of flavors going on, so a simple vinaigrette is all you need. Mustard, salt, pepper, garlic, dried basil if you have it.

making salad dressing jar

Vinegar and good olive oil for a rigorous shake.

simple vinaigrette

The tastes meld together more in the roasted version, with the soft tomatoes melting into the mix.

assembling macho salad

But the lazy version has an equally appealing crisp definition, with uncooked frozen corn (it’s been blanched before freezing anyway), nuts out of the bag, decent grape tomatoes. The combination is just as compelling either way.

macho salad ingredients

See the sun set in my kitchen. As I get ready to mix the salad, the sun is low and the horizontal light is the red-orange of flames.

assembled macho salad

The sun has dipped down when I add the chicken, almonds and cheese (feta for lack of goat), but for a moment cool light is still out.

feta chicken almonds salad

After a minute or two of gently tossing the salad, the camera has to squint to see the finished product. Time to chow down on some macho.

mixed macho salad

Macho Salad
I love this hefty-not-heavy salad, featured in a number of Hillstone restaurants, in spite of its goofball name. I’m not sure what makes it macho – lots of dates; very corny? And shouldn’t a macho salad be beefy, not chicken? But name aside, it’s the mix of flavors and textures – greens, chicken, chopped dates, corn, avocado, toasted almonds, goat cheese – that makes this salad meal memorably satisfying.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups mixed greens, washed and dried
  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen if fresh not available)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved (or diced larger tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup medjool dates (3/4 cup if fresh instead of dried), pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup rotisserie chicken, roughly shredded
  • 1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese (or feta)
  • Cornbread croutons (optional)

Vinaigrette ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon dijon or spicy brown mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Mix the dressing: in a bowl or jar, add mustard, salt, pepper, basil, garlic and vinegar. Mix well with a fork/whisk (or, if using a jar, cover and shake). Add oil in batches, mixing well each time to emulsify.
  2. Toast almonds (optional): heat almonds in a pan on medium heat (or on a baking sheet in 350 degree F oven) and warm a few minutes until almonds are lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a large salad bowl, combine greens, tomatoes, corn and dates. If you are using frozen corn, you can add it straight to the salad (frozen corn is briefly cooked before freezing, and the small kernels thaw quickly). Add half the vinaigrette and mix well. Add additional vinaigrette to taste, as well as additional salt and pepper if you like.
  4. Add avocado, chicken, almonds and cheese. Mix gently to incorporate.

Serves two as a substantial meal or 4-6 as a side salad.

Notes

  • Medjool dates – chewy sweet and almost caramel in flavor – are a real star in this salad, but you could substitute other dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, figs, prunes) if you had to.
  • Soft, tart goat cheese is perfect in this salad, but you can sub in another cheese if you don’t have any goat cheese on hand.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol at Wild Goose Tea 24 October 2014 at 4:13 pm

You are right, this should be steak salad with Macho as the name. But I kind of like the name. It makes me curious to read what’s in it. Maybe this salad is expressing it’s feminine side of being macho? Although I like the lots of dates idea. Oh yeah the salad itself—-Pretty dang tasty and I would enjoy every bite.

Reply

cg 10 November 2014 at 11:35 am

hi carol – i agree, no matter the logic, it’s a catchy name. wish i had more of a knack for creative naming, but i’m hopelessly literal.

Reply

Bonnie N 24 October 2014 at 5:07 pm

This looks like it will be so good and rather exotic. I think I’ll try it. Will have to head out and find dates and an avocado. Thank you for a great idea.

Reply

cg 10 November 2014 at 11:34 am

hi bonnie n – i hope you enjoyed it!

Reply

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