When I was growing up, a basic tossed salad was served frequently at dinner–lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, and green peppers. It never varied except for the salad dressing. Mom always had her homemade Thousand Island dressing. We kids ate Italian. Dad ate Bleu Cheese. I would have eaten bleu cheese, but my Mom had indicated that it was nasty and that Dad’s taste in food was not to be trusted. Considering Dad’s cooking, I willingly believed my Mom. Heaven help us if Mom got sick and Dad had to cook for us. I remember actually crying a few times when Mom injured her back and couldn’t get out of bed and Dad had to cook. Absolutely indescribable. But I digress. (In Dad’s defense…I LOVE bleu cheese salad dressing. It’s my personal favorite.)
Outside of this basic vegetable salad, Holidays afforded Ambrosia or a Jell-O salad with whipped cream on top. There were also other variations on creamy salads with a box of powdered Jell-O stirred into the mix. That was pretty much the extent of salads as I knew them. Oh wait, I lied. There was also chicken salad and potato salad. The end.
When I moved away from home and came out West, I found, first of all that there were actually other types of salad dressings. I was skeptical. Then, Ranch dressing came along and took the country by storm and I was swept away into the magic of it along with everyone else. Good old basic tossed salad suddenly became amazing! I ate salad with my dressing. I would have eaten just the dressing, but that would have been uncouth. Probably.
A major turning point in my salad education came with a salad served at one of my bridal showers, a layered salad. It really rocked my world. I couldn’t stop eating it and kept circling the food table like a ravenous shark, sneaking more helpings of that salad. As I have already indicated, I was salad deprived growing up.
When I first served this salad at a Holiday gathering for my side of the family, I was a little unsure about how they would take to a “different” salad than that which did not involve one of the above stated salad selections. Surprisingly, it was a giant success and for years my family would put me in charge of bringing that layered salad. I was so proud of them for being willing to expand their horizons.
One of the truly great things about this salad is that it can be made 24 hours in advance. As a matter of fact, it is best to make it a day ahead to allow time for things to settle and the dressing to become a part of the salad.
Although I have made a big to-do out of this salad, it is an extremely common salad these days, particularly for feeding a crowd. I did a Google search for photos of layered salad and got 5,800,000 hits…just on the pics. Yeah, it is common. There are variations on layered salad, but the one that I am presenting here is a slightly adapted version of the salad that I had at my wedding shower.
- The original salad was made in a 9- x 13-inch glass dish which provided a shallow 2 inch depth allowing the penetration of the simple mayonnaise salad dressing through the vegetables and lettuce. The only draw back is that the pretty salad layers are not really apparent through the sides of the dish.
- I have this salad served in deep glass bowls, but because of the depth of the bowls, such as steep sided trifle bowls, the dressing mostly ends up sitting on top of the salad ingredients. If you choose to use a steep sided bowl, it would be best to lay down a few layers of ingredients, a layer of dressing, the remainder of the layered salad ingredients, and a final layer of dressing. If serving in a deep bowl, toss the salad and dressing just prior to serving–after everyone has oooed and awwed. (Obviously I have used pics of the salad in a trifle bowl; I wanted you to ooo and awe. My preferred way to make this salad is in a 9- x 13-inch glass dish. No need to toss the salad when it is prepared in this type of a dish, just serve as is.)
- It is best to add the final toppings for the salad just prior to serving. The toppings do not hold up well if put on the salad too far in advance, particularly the bacon.
- ***Reminder–Since the salad dressing is mayonnaise based, remember to use proper temperature safety etiquette.
- Please note: The measurements for the salad are approximations only! This is a very flexible salad. Use whatever vegetable components that your family or guests enjoy.