Latin Twist: Chef’s Salad–Latin Style

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When I was growing up, chef’s salads were all the rage. I remember trying to transport this idea to Spain; we, one of my roommates and I, were hosting a luncheon in her mom’s home in Tarragona. I don’t remember what else was on the menu, but I do vividly recall that the guests unabashedly balked at our chef’s salad, which we served topped with Russian dressing. (I don’t remember what surprised me more: the fact that they were so displeased with the salad, or the fact that they verbalized their feelings!) Though I had a bit of a setback then, combined with an epiphany regarding the fact that what I might like might not be what others enjoy, I also realized something: there are many ways to recreate a basic.

Fast forward to many moons later, and, well I guess I wasn’t too scarred after all. Here I am, making chef’s salads once again. Only, my friends, this chef’s salad is not the same as the ones I  (or my mom!) used to make; this chef’s salad is a Latin-style version.

Now stay with me here!

Chef Salad Photo by my daughter, Sofia Markusfeld

Basically the thinking behind this chef’s salad came out of the fact that many of my relatives and friends are now gluten free, and therefore even my one-time bread loving comrades are not enjoying sandwiches like they used to. However, many of the carnivores among them still enjoy meat and cheese. So in this case, what I did was take the inside of  my version of a Cuban sandwich (one of my favorites!) and put it on the outside, atop mixed greens. You’ll see in the picture that there’s a ramekin of grainy mustard. So, what’s in this particular version? This chef’s salad has a kind of ropa vieja (shredded meat) of pernil (slow-roasted pork shoulder), julienne-like slices of manchego cheese, some grape tomatoes, and assorted greens. In addition to the grainy mustard,  oil and vinegar, or just a few squeezes of fresh lemon or lime, are options. Other chef’s salads I’m making include marinated and roasted portobello mushrooms with roasted red pepper and a cilantro vinaigrette….and there are others!  More than a recipe, my friends, I’m again conveying one of my favorite ways of thinking: the  sky’s the limit! Would love to hear about your chef’s salads. In the meantime, ¡Buen provecho! Enjoy!

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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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