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Make Ahead Layered Salad

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces by Kathy Maister
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When you are just learning how to cook, one of the hardest things to manage is getting all the food prepared and served at the same time. Anything that can be done ahead of time, particularly if you are entertaining guests, is a huge time saver!

This salad can be served either immediately after making it, or covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours before serving it. The trick is not to mix in the dressing (or salt) until just before you serve it. (Otherwise it will wilt.)

As is true with most salads, you can vary the ingredients to your taste.

This recipe includes: iceberg lettuce, celery, green onion, hard-cooked eggs, bacon, peas, and Swiss cheese.

(I based this recipe on one given to me by my friend Jean Williams of Salisbury, North Carolina. She does not include the hard-cooked eggs in her version.)

STEP ONE: Preparing the Salad Ingredients

1) Frozen Peas:

Remove a 10-ounce bag (or box) of frozen peas from the freezer. Let them defrost while you prepare the salad. There is no need to cook the peas.

2) Iceberg Lettuce:

Iceberg lettuce is crispy and fresh and great in salads (or shredded and added to Tacos). It is generally the least “sandy” lettuce to buy. To wash iceberg lettuce, remove the core with a paring knife.

Break it apart with your hands. (Some heads of iceberg are much firmer than others!)

I like to put the lettuce in my salad spinner then set the base of it in the sink.

Cover the lettuce with water and swish it around a bit. Lift out the colander portion of the spinner out of the water and drain the lettuce.

Put the lid on the salad spinner and let it whirl! The centrifugal force will pull all the water away from the lettuce leaves. The iceberg lettuce should end up bone dry.

If you do not have a salad spinner, wash the lettuce in a colander and shake out as much water as possible. Let it dry on paper towels or a clean dish cloth while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

Or just buy a bag of pre-washed, ready to use lettuce. The “Lettuce Trio” pictured below includes iceberg, romaine, and green leaf lettuce and would be perfect for this salad!

3) Celery:

Wash and trim the ends off from 3-to-4 stalks of celery. Cut each stalk in half and then each half into strips. Line up the strips and start chopping away.

4) Green Onions:

Wash and trim the ends off 3-to-4 green onions. (The word “scallion” is often used interchangeably with green onion.) Cut them in half and then line them up and start slicing. The white ends have a much stronger flavor than the green part.

5) Bacon:

6 strips of bacon will cook up in less than 6 minutes in the microwave. Once cooked, cut the bacon into very small bits with a large kitchen knife.

6) Hard-Cooked Eggs:

Start by checking out my video for a quick review on How to Boil an Egg. I was having a heck of a time peeling my eggs so I cracked the shell and put them in a bowl of ice water. Once the water seeped in under the shell, peeling them was so much easier! Now just chop up the two cooked eggs.

7) Swiss Cheese:

Shred 3 ounces of Swiss cheese. (Monterey Jack or cheddar would also taste great with this recipe!)

STEP TWO: Layering the Salad:

Now that all the ingredients are prepared, it’s time to start layering!

Tear the lettuce with your hands or cut it into bite size pieces. Put one half of the head of lettuce on the bottom of a salad bowl. Sprinkle on (in turn) one half of the peas, celery, green onion, eggs, bacon, and shredded cheese.

Repeat layering all the ingredients in that order: lettuce, peas, celery, green onion, eggs, bacon, and shredded cheese.

STEP THREE: The Dressing:

In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup of mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of sour cream. Either “light” or regular full-fat mayonnaise and sour cream will work for this recipe. It’s up to you which one you would prefer.

Cover the entire top of the salad with the mayonnaise-sour cream dressing.

The salad is now ready to serve. Or you can cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

Wait until just before serving the salad to toss the dressing into the salad with salad spoons or two large kitchen spoons.

Add a bit of salt and pepper to your taste, and…


P.S. Even “salad-haters” love this salad!

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Cristin said:

Can I make this with spinach?

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Cristin,

Most definitely! Just be sure to buy a bag of the “Baby Spinach”. Uncooked, these baby leaves are tender and perfect for this salad.

Cheers! Kathy

SuzieQ said:

I don’t like mayo or sour cream. Can I just put Italian Dressing on this salad?

Kathy Maister said:

No problem! BUT… be sure to add the dressing just before you serve the salad!

Karen R said:

My sister made this for Easter without the bacon for the vegetarians in the family. It was very good.

Linda said:

Is there another type of cheese that would be good if you have people who don’t like swiss?

Kathy Maister said:

Karen, that’s great to hear!

Linda, any shredded cheese will do – just choose your favorite and start shredding!

ed said:

Anything that can be done ahead of time, particularly if you are entertaining guests, is a huge time saver!

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