Salads help keep kitchens (and cooks) cool during the summer. Recently I enjoyed these chopped salad variants of two Jewish-themed sandwiches — the Reuben, and lox and bagels.
The dishes have roots in American foodways. A chopped salad probably traces back to the Cobb or chef salads of the 1920s and ’30s. The creation of the first Reuben is contested, but all stories seem to point to a Jewish deli in the first part of the 20th century. Whether it was in New York or Nebraska is up for debate.
The history of lox and bagels is more complicated. Bagels are a traditional Ashkenazi food, but it took the advent of commercial production of cream cheese and the shipping of cheap brined Pacific salmon to the East Coast to bring the elements together.
The Reuben sandwich has many variations but usually incorporates Russian dressing, sauerkraut, onions, Swiss cheese and corned beef on rye bread. My adaptation, the Reuven Chopped Salad, replaces the cheese and dairy Russian dressing with a creamy, nondairy dressing. I also add in pastrami and rye croutons.
The Lox and Bagels Chopped Salad uses a whipped cream cheese–based dressing. Do not substitute regular or soft cream cheese. I use “everything” seeded bagels for the croutons, but any savory, seeded or plain bagels will work.
Chopped Salad Base
For 1 salad
1 large head romaine lettuce
2 medium tomatoes
1 small, peeled cucumber
3 Tbs. finely chopped red onion
Rinse lettuce, drain and dry well. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut tomatoes in half across the widest part and squeeze out liquid and seeds. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop cucumber into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss all together with onions.
Reuven Chopped Salad
1 clove garlic
1 recipe chopped salad base
(see recipe above)
4 oz. deli style corned beef
4 oz. deli style pastrami
4 slices rye bread (with caraway seeds if possible)
1 recipe Revuen salad
dressing (see below)
1 large dill pickle cut into 8 spears, optional
Cut garlic in half and rub inside a large salad bowl. Discard garlic. Add chopped salad base. Separate meat slices and cut into 1/2-inch strips. Toss with salad base. Cut bread into 1/2-inch croutons (toasting in oven if desired). Just before serving, toss salad with croutons and dressing. Serve with pickle spears.
Reuven salad dressing: Mix together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup chopped, drained sauerkraut, 2 tsp. sauerkraut or lemon juice, 2 tsp. prepared white horseradish, 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. coarsely chopped caraway seeds, and 1 tsp. or to taste Sriracha or other hot sauce. Combine and taste. Adjust seasonings. If needed, add 1/8 tsp. salt. Use at room temperature.
Lox and Bagels Chopped Salad
1 clove garlic
1 recipe chopped salad base (see recipe above)
8 oz. lox or smoked salmon
1/4 cup drained capers, coarsely chopped
2 everything bagels
1 recipe cream cheese
dressing (see below)
3 Tbs. sesame seeds
Cut garlic in half and rub inside a large salad bowl. Discard garlic. Add chopped salad base. Separate lox slices and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss lox and capers with salad mix. Cut bagels into 1/2-inch croutons (toasting in oven if desired). Just before serving, toss salad with croutons, dressing and seeds.
Cream cheese dressing: Using a fork, blend until smooth 1 cup whipped cream cheese (at room temperature) with 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup canola or other neutral oil and 1/4 cup water. Stir in 1/2 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper. Use at room temperature.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Josie A.G. Shapiro. She blogs at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.